What is a Filoplume?


What is a Filoplume?

At the base of the large feathers that are easy to see are three smaller, supporting feathers that work together to insulate the body.

Afterfeather: small, downy plumes that attach to the main feather that help insulate against the cold water.

Plumules: small, soft feather that attaches directly to the penguin’s skin. Wilson’s study found there were four times as many plumules as afterfeathers, which was a surprise to the experts.

Filoplumes: small, narrow shaft barely a centimeter long that sits at the base of the feather and detects when a feather has become displaced and needs to be preened.

Before the 2015 study, filoplumes were only thought to exist on birds that fly, not penguins, emus, and ostriches. However, a study proved that penguins need to preen their feathers to prevent freezing the same way that flying birds need to preen their feathers to maintain proper flight stability.


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