London Aquarium Reports They Have TWO Same-Sex Penguin Couples

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Thursday May 13, 2021

Stock image of penguins.
Stock image of penguins.  (Source:Getty Images)

A London aquarium counts not one, but two same-sex penguin couples, as the new mating season gets underway — and both couples are all-female, the Metro has reported.

According to the outlet, one penguin pair consists of Marmalade and Chickpea, the other couple is Marama and Rocky. All four are Gentoo penguins, and they live at the Sea Life London Aquarium.

"Without a doubt, our Gentoo penguins are one of our most loved creatures," said Catherine Pritchard, the aquarium's general manager. "And we're so pleased that we're able to reopen our doors in time for guests to be able to witness their amazing courtship rituals."

Taking note of the "passion and commitment" of Gentoo penguin couples, Pritchard added, "As well as our male-female penguin couples, this breeding season we also have two female same-sex couples who are also going through their nesting rituals."

Per the article, those rituals involve one penguin presenting another with a pebble, which is then used in the construction of a nest where eggs are tended.

Same-sex couples go through the same rituals, and some same-sex couples have been said to "adopt" larger pebbles that they treat like eggs. This was the case with famed Australian Gentoo couple, Sphen and Magic, who were given a real egg to foster at the Sydney Aquarium Sea Life.

Same-sex penguin couples will also foster eggs that mixed-gender couples abandon, the Metro noted. A male couple at the Indianapolis Zoo was given an egg by a female penguin recently, which they fostered as their own. But determined couples have also been known to take matters into their own hands, as was the case at a Netherlands zoo when a pair of male African penguins made off with an egg belonging to pair of female neighbors.

The Sea Life London Aquarium website notes that Gentoo couples are monogamous during the mating season, and they "share all the responsibilities of nest building, nest guarding, egg incubation and the rearing of offspring equally, and they are found to bow to each other to cement their pair-bond."

"It is not uncommon for penguins to mate for life, but on average a pair will stay together for around three breeding seasons before finding a new partner," the website explains.

Perhaps the most famous same-sex penguin couple was Roy and Silo, a pair of chinstrap penguins that lived at the Central Park Zoo in New York. They hatched and cared for a chick named Tango, and their family became immortalized in the best-selling — and perennially challenged — children's book, "And Tango Makes Three."

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.