Thursday, November 11, 2010

The doctor will see you now.

Inside the waiting room.
"The doctor will see you now."

No sucker for being good. Penguins prefer a smelt treat after seeing the doctor.
It's time for the Tennessee Aquarium's penguins to get their semi-annual physicals. This process is occurring in two separate groups to make the process easier on the birds and the keepers. As comedian Jerry Seinfeld once observed, when you go to see the doctor, you go from the big waiting room to the little waiting room. Same thing at "Penguins' Rock." Several of the macaroni penguins and the Aquarium's youngest gentoo waddled off exhibit and into a backup room to wait for veterinarian Dr. Chris Keller. One at a time they were brought into the "smaller waiting room" to be weighed, closely examined and have a blood sample taken. "We draw blood twice a year for general physiological parameters," said Dr. Keller. "Which means how they're doing inside. Also, we want to make sure they aren't harboring a certain fungal disease that penguins are susceptible to, making sure these guys are good and healthy as they have always been."
Throughout the year, Dr. Keller makes routine check-ups on the penguins - especially when they are molting, laying eggs and raising chicks. This most recent exam was exciting, because the blood test from the juvenile gentoo chick will yield some news. "We send the blood sample to a lab to look for the male or female chromosomes," said Dr. Keller. "Within a matter of weeks we should know the gender."
Last year, aviculturists were leaning toward the macaroni chick being a male. Dr. Keller thought it was a female. When the blood test came back, it was a female and a naming contest crowned the feisty little bird "Pepper."
This year, there's a split forecast. Senior aviculturist Amy Graves and assistant curator of forests Kevin Calhoon think the gentoo is a female. Aviculturist Loribeth Aldrich and Dr. Keller believes it's a male.
What do you think? We'll soon find out!

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