Scientists Play Cupid to Penguins

February 14, 2011 / No Comments

Scientists at the New England Aquarium are donning the new role of cupids, trying to find out the best mate among African penguins at the aquarium. Scientists are pushing for a collective effort to save a species that researchers predict will be extinct  in 15 years.

african penguin couple Scientists Play Cupid to Penguins

The program ensures that penguins mate with the right partner, to maintain as diverse a gene pool as possible in captivity. The aquarium biologists arrange relationships between a pair, which they think will succeed in producing offsprings. They also sniff out any unwanted romances.

The aquarium has a collection of 10 breeding penguin couples, which they claim is the largest in the country. These pairs are constantly monitored of their love lives.

African penguins aren’t trustworthy among themselves —  they may cheat if their partner is not within reach during the mating season. Separations due to matchlessness are also quite common in the penguin world.

Caitlin Hume, the senior biologist says that by breeding them in captivity, the species can be saved from extinction. He also added that like us breakups does happen among penguins as well.

In 2008 only 28,000 of these creatures were found, from 147,000 pairs in 1956. Over fishing and change in ocean currents are thought to be the causes; adult penguins now need to travel twice as far in to the sea for food. The chicks and other penguins left ashore are now starving for long.

But within the aquarium penguins are fed a steady diet of ocean smelt, sardines, capelin, and herring. The islands are cleaned every day and 150,000 gallons of water are constantly filtered.

African penguins have a life span of about 10-15 years and are ready to breed when they are 4 years old.

(Treehugger)