Tuesday, November 06, 2007

That pesky penguin...

With Bailey's help (see yesterday's post) we finally finished that pesky, greasy, old penguin. This is a little penguin (Eudyptula minor) found along the coasts of New Zealand. This species is also called the fairy penguin or little blue penguin for the beautiful iridescent blue plumage on it's back. In the little penguin's native New Zealand it is known for nesting under the porches of homes along the coast. This male specimen died at the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden where it was part of a long-term captive flock. Preparing a study skin from a penguin carcass was a real challenge and I was lucky to have Bailey's help. Compared to the small songbirds, large aquatic birds like waterfowl and penguins have an enormous layer of fat beneath their skin. Of course this is a great adaptation for the bird as it provides insulation and buoyancy but it is a real pain to deal with when preparing the skin. Fat left in a study skin will gradually seep through making the feathers oily and leaving a greasy stain on any substrate the specimen is left lying on. Hopefully we managed to get enough of the fat from the skin to make it an OK study skin, we'll see. I'm thinking Bailey and I will have to nickname our first penguin study skin "Ol' Greasy"!

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