Penguin lays golden egg
Published: 1st Apr 2014A penguin at a zoo in Devon has laid a golden egg. The macaroni penguin, named Yoyo, laid the egg at Living Coasts, Torquay’s coastal zoo, on Sunday. The charity’s Executive Director Simon Tonge – a bird expert and former zoo keeper - said: “The eggshell has a real golden sheen – it is rare but not unheard of. I have been around birds for 35 years and this is only the second one I have seen.”
Living Coasts Operations Manager Clare Rugg said: “Sadly, the egg is definitely not made of solid gold! It is a first egg, so it may not be fertile – we shall have to wait and see. The metal in the shell can make it harder for the chick to break its way out of the egg, so we will need to keep a close eye on this one.”
Visitors are flocking to the English Riviera to see the rare egg, but she has no concerns about security. “It’s certainly not worth stealing - there will be very little actual gold in the egg – and penguins peck!”
One theory is that a bird lays a gold-coloured egg because it has consumed trace amounts of gold, brass or copper. Penguins are attracted to shiny objects – some African penguins have been found hoarding sweet wrappers and small pieces of metal in their burrows. Eggshells contain calcium which comes from the bird’s diet – it’s thought the metal gets into the shell in the same way.
In addition, there may be a link between egg colour and the intensity of a macaroni penguin’s yellow feathers and beak, which help attract a mate. Macaroni penguins breed in colonies on rocky coasts. Two eggs - usually off-white - are laid, but the first rarely hatches. Incubation takes about 33 to 37 days.
The story of the goose that laid the golden eggs is one of Aesop's Fables from ancient Greece. Ornithologists suggest that the original story was based on a true account of a bird laying an egg similar to the one at Living Coasts.
The story is also found in France, in the Suvannahamsa Jataka (the Buddhist book of monastic discipline), in Northern India and Tajikistan.