At a local Australian aquarium, a same-sex penguin couple rejoiced after the birth of their baby chick. The baby chick’s birth was announced on the Aquarium’s Facebook page earlier today. However, his name and gender have not been confirmed as of yet.
The two penguins are named Sphen and Magic, and are residents of the Sea Life Sydney Aquarium in Australia. These two lovebirds first caught the attention of aquarium workers when they were seen swimming around and playing together nearly all day. According to Tish Hannan, Sea Life’s penguin department supervisor, the pair have formed a strong bond, even recognizing each other’s signature calls and songs.
“Only bonded penguins will be able to successfully find their partner using their calls when they are separated,”, said Hannan.
The couple then started to construct a collective nest of pebbles, and the aquarium responded by providing them with a dummy egg to look after. When the penguins proved they were up to the task, the staff provided them with a real baby penguin’s egg.
In the penguin family, both the male and female penguins take on the same parenting roles, sharing their duties equally between them. This is quite rare in most mammal species (such as humans of course).
“There is no real difference when it comes to breeding behaviors between males and females,” explained Hannan.
Therefore, same-sex courtship and breeding is not entirely uncommon within the species. However, these relationships tend to die out fast since they are unlikely to result in a baby chick, so penguins usually become unsatisfied and look for another mating partner.
“Because we have given Sphen and Magic the opportunity to have a potentially successful breeding season, it is very likely that they will return to each other again next year,” said Hannan.
This is not the first time same-sex couple animals have adopted eggs, with a handful of zoos worldwide performing similar acts. In 2009, two male penguins named Z and Vielpunkt hatched and raised a chick that was rejected by its heterosexual parents at a Berlin zoo. Before them, two penguins at a New York zoo were spotted mating with each other and were given a foster egg which they later hatched and raised. Their female offspring later paired off with another female.
The same-sex penguins and their baby chick will be open to the public this weekend. However, the baby chick will likely be burrowed in his father’s feathers until he’s fully healthy.