Jul 23, 2019 | Updated: 09:13 AM EDT

Galapagos Penguins Mooch Off Their Parents For Free Food

Mar 15, 2017 12:17 PM EDT

Swimming Penguins At SeaWorld San Diego
(Photo : Mike Aguilera/SeaWorld San Diego via Getty Images) SAN DIEGO, CA - MARCH 13: In this handout photo provided by SeaWorld San Diego, Humboldt and Magellanic penguins swim together in their habitat at SeaWorld San Diego on March 13, 2014 in San Diego, California. These amazing avian ambassadors can be seen during a behind-the-scenes tour at SeaWorld (Magellanic penguins can also be seen in their outdoor habitat outside the Penguin Encounter). Both Humboldts and Magellanics are classified as vulnerable populations. As with many penguin species, their status has a potential to be reclassified as endangered due to overfishing, habitat destruction and human interference. SeaWorld San Diego has one of the most successful penguin breeding programs in the world and was the very first zoological organization in the world to breed Magellanic penguins through artificial insemination, with three successful hatchlings in 2013. Humboldts (which have one black stripe) are from Chile and Peru; Magellanics (two black stripes) are native to Chile and Argentina.

It looks like humans are not alone when it comes to mooching off free food from their parents. It turns out that Galapagos penguins are very much alike to humans.

Galapagos penguins do solicit food from their parents too even after they are old enough to get food for themselves, a new study stated. However, unlike human parents, Galapagos parents are only willing to give their big kids food like fish when there is plenty of it, National Geographic reported. Parents only give when they have extra resources. When the baby Galapagos are almost 60 days old, they mature into independent fledglings. Though not like many other penguins species, the Galapagos ones stay close to their parents to learn hunting for food.

The study, which was published online on March 13 in "The Wilson Journal of Ornithology", also stated that the kind of relationship they found was rather normal but not every Galapagos penguin parents do it. There are also penguin parents that do not recognize their kids, hence, no free food. The research team was led by University of Washington biology professor Dee Boersma, according to Science Daily.

"Through field seasons over the years when we were observing penguin behavior in the Galapagos Islands, we saw these isolated instances of adults feeding individuals who had obviously fledged and left the nest," said Boersma. After collecting enough field observations, they concluded that post-fledging parental care is a normal and a part of Galapagos penguin behavior.

Many seabird species' parents do continue to give their offspring food even after fledging. However, those times are only very limited. There are only 18 penguin species that do this and Galapagos penguins are now the second penguin species, after Gentoo penguins, to do post-fledging parental care.

The behavior might be a result of adapting to situations, said professor Dee Boersma. She does not expect to find other seabirds to do the same. But since there is less and less food from the sea due to climate change, the home where penguins find food is changing, thus they will too.

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