|MadSci Network: Zoology|
While it may look like penguins have fur, they are really covered with feathers. Having feathers is one of the things that makes a bird a bird. Even though the feathers covering penguins may not look very much like the feathers you can get from a chicken, if you could look at them closely (perhaps even under a microscope) you would see that they have a lot of similarities. For both the chicken and the penguin, the feathers consist of a central shaft with a vane extending from either side of the shaft. The vanes are made up of thin structures called barbs. The barbs have tiny hooked structures extending off of them. These hooklets grasp neighboring barbs, making the feather appear to be a solid surface. Feathers come in many different shapes and sizes. The beautiful tail plumes of the peacock, the goose down found in many pillows, and the whisker-like bristles surrounding the mouth of the whip-poor-will are all varieties of feathers. If you would like to learn more about feathers (or birds in general) the branch of biology dealing with birds is called ornithology. Your library should have a number of books about birds that you could read, and all the field guides to birds have an introductory chapter about the biology of birds. A good online resource is BIRDNET, found at the following URL: http://www.nmnh.si.edu/BIRDNET/index.html
Try the links in the MadSci Library for more information on Zoology.