An adorable silver and white penguin chick living at SeaWorld San Diego is more than just her looks. She’s a scientific breakthrough.
The 12-week-old bird was a product of the world’s first penguin artificial insemination using frozen-then-thawed semen.
“This is a technique that has never been performed successfully in any penguin species,” said SeaWorld’s Scientific Director Justine O’Brian.
Before this trial run, O’Brian’s team just used frozen semen to inseminate the cold-weather birds because the thawed version had not worked.
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But on May 14, things went just swimmingly, and the new technique proved a success when the tiny female Magellanic penguin was hatched.
The baby was hand-raised in the habitat’s nursery and fed with a special formula made of ground herring fillets, krill, vitamins, minerals and water.
While the mixture sounds stomach-churning, the chick gobbled it up five times a day for the first four weeks. Now four months old, the bird is eating solid fish.
She has also joined the other adults at in the main Penguin Encounter exhibit.
O’Brian said her center studies the animals’ reproductive biology to develop technology that helps endangered species have little babies of their own.
“And [we] use this information to monitor the health of not only our zoological populations, but wild populations as well,” said O’Brian.
The first marine mammal conceived through artificial insemination was in February 2000, SeaWorld says.