In an apparent world first, the newest chick in a Danish zoo’s King penguin colony has two dads.
“This year has been extraordinary,” zoologist Nina Christensen told the Star on Thursday.
Odense Zoo keepers realized two of their male King penguins were a couple about a year ago, she said. Then they noticed the gay penguins would try to “disturb the other pairs and steal their eggs.”
So far, not too odd. Penguins and swans in the wild do the same thing.
In brooding season, though, the gay penguins took to trying to incubate dead herring.
“The keepers realized they seriously wanted to stay with an egg.”
As fortune would have it, a female penguin started acting oddly as well. She’d already delivered an egg with one male then dumped him and produced another with a different, already mated, male. Then she dumped him and abandoned the egg.
In the lifetime monogamy of the King penguin world, this was “extraordinary,” said Christensen.
“Now we have an extra egg and this pair that have been standing with fishes.”
The keepers tested the gay penguins’ parenting skills on a ball, then tried them with the abandoned egg. They were, said Christensen, natural parents.
“With King penguins, they mix it between the male and female. One stands with the egg while the other goes to feed and then they shift. It was the same with this pair. They both incubated the egg.”