A bromance in a Danish zoo between two male penguins has resulted in their adoption of a baby penguin, and may be the world's first example of gay fatherhood of its kind, a Toronto Star article reported Thursday, November 8, 2012.
The two penguins began their bromance a couple of years ago at Odense Zoo, and although it's not completely unusual in itself, what was unusual was the keepers noticed the two males tried to steal other couples' eggs during brooding season. The job of sitting on an egg is typically shared by both male and female penguins and their relationships are usually monogamous. In this case, when the two males were unable to snitch an egg from another couple, they took to sitting on dead herring to incubate them.
A Toronto Star article stated "The keepers realized they seriously wanted to stay with an egg."
“This year has been extraordinary,” zoologist Nina Christensen told the Star on Thursday.
The parental problem was resolved when one of the zoos' females also started to act oddly, by first laying an egg with one male, dumping him, and moving on to have another egg with another male - then abandoning both him and the egg.
The Star quoted Christensen as saying, "In the lifetime monogamy of the King penguin world, this was “extraordinary."
“Now we have an extra egg and this pair that have been standing with fishes.”
Christensen arranged to have the gay penguins parenting skills tested on a ball, gradually moving on to the egg, and found they were natural parents.
“With King penguins, they mix it between the male and female. One stands with the egg while the other goes to feed and then they shift. It was the same with this pair. They both incubated the egg," Christensen was quoted as saying in the article.
The article said, "The chick hatched about a month ago and the new little family remains separated from the colony while they bond but will soon rejoin them. Penguins recognize their offspring by their distinctive cries, indistinguishable to humans, and this trio are no different, Christensen said."
She said it was hard to tell if this behavior is common in nature, as male and female King penguins look identical, and so from a distance difficult to determine the genders of roosting parents. However, in captivity, this is absolutely a first!
There are two male African penguins at the Toronto zoo who also enjoy a gay relationship, but the pair have not chosen to be parents as of yet.