01 July 2016

World's first successful artificial insemination of southern rockhopper penguin

Southern rockhopper penguin chick conceived through
artificial insemination. Credit: Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan.
JAPAN - In a world first, DNA tests have confirmed that a southern rockhopper penguin chick born at Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan in early June was conceived through artificial insemination.

The project was led by Kaiyukan in collaboration with Associate Professor Kusunoki Hiroshi from Kobe University's Graduate School of Agricultural Science.

Kaiyukan and Associate Professor Kusunoki began their joint research in 2011, examining the breeding habits of southern rockhopper penguins and developing the artificial insemination technology. In spring 2015 the group obtained a fertilised egg, but it did not hatch, and DNA tests determined that the unborn chick was the result of natural reproduction.

This time, multiple penguins were selected for breeding, and the group enlisted the cooperation of Tokyo Sea Life Park. At the end of April they obtained a healthy sperm sample from a male penguin at Tokyo Sea Life Park and successfully transported it to Kaiyukan. Once there, they used blood tests to estimate the laying days of three female penguins and work out the best timing for artificial insemination.

Between 28 April and 4 May the three female penguins laid five eggs between them. These were incubated by the penguin couples for approximately one month, and three chicks hatched between 4 and 6 June. DNA tests of blood samples taken from inside the eggshells showed that one of these chicks was conceived through artificial insemination.

World's first successful artificial insemination of southern rockhopper penguin [media release], Kobe University, 28 June 2016, EurekAlert!

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