Gender of penguin raised by same-sex parents revealed

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Well now we have an update on the adorable trio. Sea Life Aquarium has just announced that the beloved penguin chick born in October — known as Baby Sphengic — is female.

“We’ve loved how engaged and interested the visitors from all over the world are, having followed the love story of Sphen and Magic,” Laetitia Hannan, penguin keeper at the aquarium, tells CNN Travel.

“Backup” penguin chick

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Baby Sphengic with Sphen and Magic.

Courtesy SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium

Sphen and Magic — AKA Sphengic — are two male gentoo penguins who became inseparable last year, right before breeding season.

Visitors would often spot the pair waddling around and going for swims together, which was why they were deemed to be suitable prospective parents.

When another penguin couple laid two eggs, Sphengic was entrusted to hatch the “backup” egg.

It’s common for gentoo penguins to lay two eggs each breeding season, but the sub-Antarctic penguins usually only have enough resources to incubate and raise a single egg, so the “backup” chick may not survive.

Not in this case — on October 19, 2018, an adorable 91-gram penguin chick was born to the doting penguin parents.

Non-defined gender roles

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Baby Sphengic has mastered the art of diving.

Courtesy SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium

It’s important for the keepers at the aquarium to know the gender of each penguin for population management, explains Hannan.

It takes experts a couple of months — and a blood test — to determine the gender of a penguin, as the sexes closely resemble one another.

But in the penguin world, gender roles aren’t defined and parents share equal responsibilities when it comes to maintaining nests and raising the young.

The three-month-old is now a fully-fledged bird and, adorably, is receiving swimming lessons. She’s already learned to dive.

“One of the most important things when baby penguins are learning how to swim is for them to get used to having their heads underneath the water so that they can see.” says Hannan.

Turns out Baby Sphengic has a healthy appetite, too.

“The chick was born at just 91 grams — which is less than an apple — and now weighs just over 5 kilograms — the size of a watermelon — so Baby Sphengic clearly loves food,” says Hannan.

The penguin consumes about 800 grams of food daily, which is 20% of her body weight.

As for her name — Baby Sphengic’s more of a nickname. Don’t worry, staff at Sea Life Sydney say they are currently considering what she should be called.

“Baby Sphengic will be an ambassador for the species who are facing global threats such as global warming and plastic pollution and we look forward to sharing more updates with you in the coming months,” adds Hannan.



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