'Gay' penguins manage to successfully hatch baby chick and are taking turns to look after it

'Gay' penguins manage to successfully hatch baby chick and are taking turns to look after it

At the Sea Life Sydney Aquarium in Australia, caretakers noticed that two male gentoo penguins, Sphen and Magic, had become inseparable. During breeding season, the pair were constantly seen swimming together and waddling around together. Then they began presenting each other with pebbles, a clear sign of romantic interest. (For penguins, pebbles are like diamonds, demonstrating they wish to become a couple.)

The aquarium quickly noticed Sphen and Magic had formed a serious bond. "They recognized each other’s signature calls and songs," said Penguin Department Supervisor Tish Hannan. "Only bonded penguins will be able to successfully find their partner using their calls when they are separated." When the couple constructed a nest out of stones, caretakers provided them with a dummy egg to practice incubating.

Unlike many mammals, male and female penguins play the same parenting roles, and split the duties 50/50. During the incubation period, one parent sits on the egg, while the other stands guard, protecting their nest from thieves and nosy neighbors. After Sphen and Magic displayed natural skills and great excitement, they were given a real egg.

The offspring came from another penguin couple at the aquarium who happened to hatch two eggs. Usually penguins only have enough resources to raise one. The first-born chick tends to have a survival advantage because it is larger, leaving the second-born chick to struggle, or even perish, because it cannot compete. "Fostering the biological couple's egg to Sphen and Magic was the best outcome for all penguin couples and the future of their eggs," explained the aquarium.

baby penguin Credit: Sea Life Sydney Aquarium

On October 19, their fostered baby chick was born, weighing 91-grams. The aquarium tweeted a photo of the adorable bird, who is nicknamed Sphengic. "Baby Sphengic has already stolen our hearts! We love watching the proud parents doting and taking turns caring for their baby chick," said Hannan. Now Sphen and Magic are proud dads, and their baby is a viral sensation, just like them.

You might be wondering, is Baby Sphengic a boy or girl? The aquarium don't know yet. As they explained in a tweet, male and female penguins don't have any physical differences, so gender can only be determined by DNA. They can't perform a test now, because it's dangerous to draw blood from a newborn, so they plan to do so in two months. (And I'm sure it will be the most adorable gender reveal party ever.)

In some parts of the world, the LBTQ community still faces prejudice, and is denied equal rights by their government. Some ignorant people even have the nerve to howl that homosexuality "isn't natural." And at the same time they say that, gay penguins are living their best lives. "Because we have given Sphen and Magic the opportunity to have a potentially successful breeding season, it is very likely that they will return to each other again next year,’ said Hannan.