How do penguins (and other warm blooded Antarctic mammals like whales and seals) live in the extremely cold environment of Antarctica and not freeze! Penguins have feathers but their purpose isn’t to keep them warm. It’s the layer of fat right under their sleek skin which keeps them warm – one of their biggest resistance against the cold. Fur and feathers can be ruffled by the wind (and they’re useless when wet), so the best layer of insulation is under their skin.
The feathers are for another purpose – they’re valuable for shaking off water when they step onto land! They’re short and woolly and perfect for the purpose.
Penguins, whales, seals, and all other water mammals living in cold conditions maintain high body temperature with their fat insulation. The insulation lets them preserve heat, but that can become a huge disadvantage when they’re overheated and need to lose some of it. The two areas from where penguins lose heat (and so regulate their body temperature) are their flippers and feet.
The warm blood entering the feet flows past cold blood already present there, forcing heat exchange. The cold blood in the feet warms up because it absorbs heat from the warm blood entering, cooling down the warm blood, and maintaining body temperature. Penguin feet never freeze – the blood flow is adjusted so that the feet stay at their own temperature. Zero chances of getting frostbitten!
What about the flippers? Just tuck them in when needed to preserve heat, and open wide when needed to lose it!
Here’s the best trick – when the cold hits in its worst form (especially during snow storms), penguins huddle together in groups, conserving heat, and keeping each other warm.