SeaWorld has successfully done something no one else has done before: it has hatched the first test tube penguin using frozen semen that was later thawed.
The animal, an adorable silver and white baby penguin, was the result of a scientific breakthrough made by SeaWorld researchers in San Diego. The baby penguin started her life as an egg in an incubator. Researchers fertilized the egg with frozen semen that was thawed out.
"The semen is drawn up this catheter into the syringe," says Justine O'Brien, SeaWorld researcher. "All we're doing is helping the sperm get further along into that position for fertilization."
This technique worked and resulted in a baby penguin named Magellan 184 (SeaWorld has too many penguins to name them all). Researchers hand-raised her in a penguin nursery and fed her a special diet of ground seafood and vitamins. Now that she's at 12 weeks old she'll soon get to eat real penguin food.
Other penguins have been successfully bred from artificial insemination before, including an Emperor penguin in China. However, this is the first time that frozen-then-thawed semen has successfully worked in artificial insemination in an animal, making this a scientific breakthrough.
Magellan 184 is a Magellanic penguin, which is a species of penguin native to South America. Visitors to SeaWorld will soon see her in SeaWorld's Penguin Encounter. Although she is one amongst hundreds of penguins that hatched at SeaWorld, she is unique because of her origins.
SeaWorld states that the artificial insemination technique is a part of their mission intended to save endangered animals from extinction. Captivity is one way of saving these animals, but those conditions often result in animals losing interest in breeding.
This new technique can help guarantee the survival of certain species. Penguins, in particular, face extinction because they are victims of global warming.Melting ice changes their natural environments and makes them more vulnerable to predators.
"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.