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22 January 2019 @ 12:31 am
Nature what now?  
I was too tired last night to remember the other thing I'd intended to post, but I have it now: the NY Times article on gay male penguins raising a chick together.

It's a very sweet article, but also a continually unfolding description of penguin courtship and parenting rituals that make you go, whAAAAaat.

Bowing to each other as a sign of interest (oddly formal, but then again, they do wear tuxedos). 'Singing' to each other (if you can call sounds like "rrAAWRK!" singing). Bringing each other special pebbles to make a nest—and what makes a pebble 'special' in the eye of a penguin? Perhaps it's more about the ritual itself. If the other penguin pushes the pebble away with its beak, it's a bad sign. If it seems to appreciate the pebble, that indicates consent to be courted, and suddenly it feels like you're in the middle of a Jane Austen novel. :O

Having seen March of the Penguins, about Emperor penguins who tend their eggs by parking them on their feet and then draping their blubber over the top, I hadn't realized that some penguins actually do make nests. There was an article years ago about a pair of gay male penguins at a German zoo, and it described the pebble ritual. I realize now that those were probably also nesting penguins, similar to the ones in Australia above, so the pebbles are used to create a nest and actually serve a purpose. Because otherwise, that seems awfully random. Special pebbles! Huh?

The German male penguins were trying to hatch a rock together (how sweet, but also... wow. That "bird brain" phrase exists for a reason). They were later given a neglected egg by the zookeepers. For the penguins in Sydney, their species usually lays two eggs and only one typically survives, so the zookeepers gave a 'spare' to the male penguin couple.

The online article is longer than the one that ran in our paper, so we also find out that the younger penguin parent had the occasional problem equivalent to, "But honey! The guys called and asked if I could come over and watch a game. It's only for a few hours!" Also that the hatching process for this type of penguin can be a multi-day effort. I guess the baby isn't in a hurry, and the parents don't help? Huh.

The real question I had overall was, what kind of a name is 'Sphen'?

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