1 Tahrcountry Musings: Penguin Kidnaps Chick of Mortal Enemy

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Penguin Kidnaps Chick of Mortal Enemy

I was fascinated to read in the journal Polar Biology, about this kidnapping of the chick of its mortal enemy by a Penguin.

An adult penguin was observed to kidnap a skua chick on Marion Island, in the sub-Antarctic. Penguins have been observed in the past to raise chicks of other species, but it was the first time that scientists observed Penguins trying to raise the young of its natural predator. Mature skuas go after penguins, preying on their chicks. Occasionally it grabs adults also. Chris Oosthuizen and Nico de Bruyn of the Mammal Research Institute at the University of Pretoria, South Africa, spotted the unusual behavior while en route to Goodhope Bay on Marion Island.

One Skua repeatedly went after the Penguin trying to win back the chick. But the Penguin successfully defended the attempt. This continued till a human observer stepped in and returned the chick to its real parents.

This kind of kidnapping usually occurs when a parent fails to correctly identify their offspring, owing to the loss of nests or because they can't resist the calls of chicks. But, usually, the behaviour and diet of adopting and adopted species are analogous. Scientists think that an increased level of the hormone prolactin, known as the "parenting hormone" is responsible for the behavior. The hormone usually helps maintain the bond between chicks and adults when they're away foraging.

Amazing are the ways of Mother Nature. We have only probed the tip of the iceberg

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