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First Penguin Hatched via Artificial Insemination at SeaWorld

Aug 11, 2014 01:21 PM EDT
Magellanic penguin
SeaWorld recently made a scientific breakthrough when it successfully hatched a penguin [not pictured] for the first time using artificial insemination.
(Photo : Pixabay)

SeaWorld recently made a scientific breakthrough when it successfully hatched a penguin for the first time using artificial insemination.

The 12-week-old Magellan penguin, named No. 184, is the first of any penguin species to be reproduced using this technique.

To create Magellan No. 184 SeaWorld scientists used frozen-then-thawed semen, which was then injected into a female penguin. The revolutionary technique pioneered at SeaWorld Reproductive Research Center.

"The semen is drawn up this catheter into the syringe. ... All we're doing is helping the sperm get further along into that position for fertilization," Justine O'Brien from the research center told CNN.

Scientists are hoping that artificial insemination will help endangered or threatened species in the wild, like the Magellan penguin.

"Artificial insemination and semen preservation allows us to maximize the genetic diversity of these populations, and that means that they remain healthy and stable into the future," O'Brien said, according to ABC 57 News.

These medium-sized penguins, native to the coastlines of South America, and on both the Atlantic and pacific shores, are a threatened species. Commercial fishing, climate change and oil pollution are the biggest contributing factors to their decline, according to the Wildlife Conservation Society. In the 1980s, more than 40,000 of these penguins died in Argentina each year because of oil pollution.

Commercial fishing depletes the schools of fish penguins (and other seabirds) feed on - Magellanic penguins eat small fish, crustaceans, krill, and squid. Even unregulated tourism and recreational activities can put strains on this population when they interfere with breeding or resting on beaches.

Magellanic penguins, also called Patagonian penguins, can swim at speeds of up to 15 mph and dive more than 250 feet beneath the water's surface. Like all penguins, they have tightly packed feathers and fat to insulate them from the cold, but they are also adapted to warm temperatures.

What's even more amazing is that Magellanic penguins are monogamous. The Wildlife Conservation Society knows of a penguin pair that stayed together for 16 years.

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