"It's almost like playtime for them. We can't hold them back," Kurz said. "There is one in particular that always wants to cut in front of the other penguins, so that he can walk across the mat first. It's pretty cute."
Just why penguins (or pandas or kittens) seem so "cute" to humans isn't as measurable as their gait, but some researchers speculate that this may be rooted in the animals' perceived vulnerability, lack of threat and soft physiques.
For UH researcher Kurz, his subjects' funny, cuddly nature is just an incidental advantage.
His current research will provide a springboard for future studies on the unique locomotive strategies of penguins. Next, he will examine the running patterns of the penguins. And if you think penguins are cute waddling, just wait till you see them in a hurry.
As comical as his subjects may be, Kurz remains a scientist first and an amused spectator second.
"You can't help smiling," Kurz said, "but this is serious research, and the results could make a real difference in many people's lives."