- Sphen and Magic may even become grandparents next year.
Sphen and Magic, a world-famous gay penguin couple, have become dads again after adopting and hatching their second egg.
The couple made headlines around the world when they adopted an egg in 2018 and raised their first chick, Lara.
Now SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium has announced they are dads again, as new chicks hatch in the Gentoo Penguin colony.
An aquarium spokesperson told the Sydney Star Observer:
‘If one of our pairs has too many eggs or are not good at looking after their eggs, we will sometimes foster these eggs out to other pairs like Sphen and Magic. We gave Sphen and Magic an egg to incubate as they have proven to be good parents in the past.’
Kerrie Dixon, the penguin supervisor said it had been a busy month as the aquarium’s Sub-Antarctic Zone went through its hatching season:
‘We are beyond excited to welcome the new penguin chicks to our colony. They are doing really well and gaining weight. They started at around 95 grams, now our oldest is almost 2kg and the youngest is sitting at around 399 grams.’
‘Attentive and incredibly caring’
Keepers first noticed Sphen and Margic were a dedicated pair when they saw they waddled around and went for swims together.
The experts knew they were well bonded because they recognized each other’s signature calls and songs when apart.
The couple began to build a next of pebbles – typical gentoo behavior – and the aquarium provided them with a dummy egg to look after.
Then, when they performed well, they gave them a real egg to care for. Lara – also nicknamed Sphengic – hatched on 19 October 2018, weighing just over 3ozs.
And they turned out to be brilliant parents to Lara. The spokesperson said she had thrived and Sphen and Magic may soon become grandparents:
‘Just like our other Gentoo parents, Sphen and Magic are attentive and incredibly caring and we feel privileged to have such an amazing duo in our colony.
‘Lara is now two years old and surprising us everyday with how independent she is.
‘Despite still being relatively young, she attempted to take part in this year’s breeding season. She and her partner set up a nest and carefully watched over it but unfortunately weren’t successful in hatching an offspring.
‘We look forward to seeing how she goes next year and whether she’ll give Sphen and Magic a little grand penguin chick.’
A world of gay penguins
Same-sex penguin pairs are very common in the wild and in captivity around the world. Both males and females take very similar parenting roles, making it easy for them to adopt a chick.
Experts estimate that anything from 5% to 10% of penguins in zoos around the world are in same-sex pair bonds.
Last year, the Dingle Oceanworld Aquarium in Kerry, Ireland confirmed that out of its 15 Gentoo penguins, eight of them are in same-sex relationships.
Moreover, in February 2019, two humboldt penguins, Ferrari and Pringle, even got married in England. The ceremony – or press stunt – in Chipping Norton made headlines around the world.
Why some animals are gay or bi
Homosexuality and bisexuality is thought to exist in almost all – if not all – animal species. Though, of course, homophobia and biphobia are only seen in one.
Giraffes are most likely to display same-sex attraction.
However scientists have observed gay sex in everything from bugs to bats and flamingos to killer whales.
Any animal from the smallest fruit fly to the largest elephant may take part. Moreover, around 60% of sex in bonobo chipanzees, our closest animal relatives, is gay.
Some species have an exclusively same-sex phase at some point in their lives – though they won’t always stay ‘gay’ forever. Others are completely bisexual.
A lot of species have a harem system and junior males, filled with testosterone, turn to each other while the dominant male controls the females. Sometimes it’s the ruling female stopping her competitors from mating.
There are also times when it seems like it might be a mistake – frogs in the mating season often attempt to have sex with the first stranger they see.
Scientists speculate that same-sex attracted ‘uncles’ and ‘aunts’ help other members of their family group raise young. This passes on their genes indirectly.
Another theory suggests that same-sex activity helps animals learn how to mate – making them better at it.