In what appears to be the first animal kingdom two-dad family, a pair of life-bonded King penguins in a Danish zoo have adopted an egg that was rejected by its mother. TheStar.com reports:
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 penguins have taken to the egg perfectly and zookeepers are hopeful that the new pair will make great parents. The most interesting aspect of this story is the fact that this sort of thing—same sex pair bonding and rearing eggs—my happen all the time in penguins, but because they look alike and share incubation duties equally, it’s hard to tell who’s doing what.
What do you think of the penguins? What would have happened had these penguins done this in a zoo 50 or even 25 years ago?
Photo courtesy of Flickr/ brian.gratwicke