Two female penguins that adopted an egg from another penguin couple and incubated it have welcomed a little chick to their non-conventional family.
The two penguins named Electra and Viola live in the Oceanografic Aquarium, located in the city of Valencia, in the eastern Spanish region of the same name.
According to the aquarium, it is the first time this phenomenon has taken place in the aquarium, where three chicks have been born during this breeding season in the colony of 25 gentoo penguins (Pygoscelis Papua), also known in Spanish as Juanitos.
According to a press release from the aquarium obtained by Newsflash, the colony now has three couples with chicks, Navi and Aquela, Bolo and Melibea and now the female duo Electra and Viola.
Electra and Viola are an exceptional couple according to the aquarium’s bird-keeper, Carlos Barros, who explained to Newsflash that the female couple started to show common breeding behaviour, such as building up their own nest using stones.
He said: “They put two eggs each inside obviously without knowing they were not fertile, so we put one of the eggs from a different couple into their nest so that they could take care of it.”
Penguins always breed in couples, starting with the construction of a nest that consists of stones piled up in a circle that is usually around 20 centimetres (7.8 inches) in diameter.
The nests are very loved by the penguins and they even can cause arguments among the members of the colony. Barros said that the stones are also used during the mating time by males.
Barros explained that monogamy among penguins is more common in zoos and controlled habitats, but in nature, it is more common to see what is called “seasonal monogamy”, which means that they are loyal to the couple only for the mating season although they can meet the same partner the following year because they were very good at breeding.
Barros said: “In couples of the same sex it has been seen that they are very good parents and that they take care very well of their offspring.”
Barros added that the female couple could be loyal next season because they believe they have succeeded in breeding.
The incubation is done by both the mum and the dad who take shifts and the eggs, usually, two per lay, are broken on the 38th day and the chicks stay with their parents for around 75 days.
The new arrival adopted by Electra and Viola is the first of the year in the aquarium and so far the gender is unknown until blood tests can be carried out after it is at least a-month-and-a-half old.
Same-sex couples are not uncommon in the animal world, having been reported both in nature and in zoos in more than 450 animal species.
(T4 / ends)