Saturday, December 11, 2010

Name That Penguin!!

It's A Girl!! Name the New Gentoo Penguin Contest at the Tennessee Aquarium

Loribeth Aldrich & PenguinChattanooga, Tenn. (December 7, 2010) – The Tennessee Aquarium has learned that the gentoo penguin chick, hatched on June 30th, is a girl. “It was a bit surprising to some of us,” said senior aviculturist Amy Graves. “Even at this young age, she’s fairly large and already outweighs some of our other gentoos.”

Visitors can easily identify this penguin by looking for the gentoo with two “Tennessee Aquarium blue” beads separated by a white bead on her flipper bands. The best place to find her is in the water. “She loves to swim and can be found in the pool almost all day long,” said aviculturist Loribeth Aldrich. “She is very athletic, displaying bursts of energy as she races across the exhibit making tight turns and flips.”

Just before Thanksgiving, after all of the penguins completed their molting cycle, they were taken off exhibit to be given physical examinations including blood work. “Twice a year we screen the birds for general physiological parameters,” said Aquarium veterinarian Dr. Chris Keller. “This helps us ensure the penguins are good and healthy.” For the Aquarium’s newest gentoo, a DNA sample was sent out to another lab to test for male or female chromosomes. “In spite of a penguin’s physical characteristics, this specialized test is the only way to know whether a young bird is male or female,” said assistant curator of forests Kevin Calhoon. “In fact, this was a split decision. Amy and I thought it was a female, but Dr. Keller and Loribeth thought it was too large to be female.”

The parents, Biscuit and Blue, also spend a lot of time in the water. And according to Graves, this particular penguin mirrors some of her mother’s behavior. “Biscuit likes to eat while she’s swimming,” said Graves. “And I don’t see this chick eat very often from the pan. She enjoys the water feedings like her mom.”

Tennessee Aquarium visitors will have a chance to help name the gentoo chick. Guests will be invited to cast write-in ballots at the South Pole-ing booth which will be set up in the Ocean Journey gift shop and online at Voting will begin Saturday, December 11th and conclude at the end of the Aquarium’s “Tropical Holiday Adventure” on Sunday, January 2nd. The penguin’s name will be selected from these submissions. By entering the Penguin Naming contest, voters could win a trip to Chattanooga for 2011 which includes overnight accommodations at the Chattanooga Marriot at the Convention Center and a family four pack of tickets to the Tennessee Aquarium, IMAX 3D Theater, River Gorge Explorer and Creative Discovery Museum.

Guests may want to spend some extra time in Penguins’ Rock during the holidays to observe her behavior before choosing a name. “She’s almost always in the water doing something fun or amazing,” said Graves.

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