Call It “Sasquawk”- Big Feet A Distinct Feature Of Aquarium’s Newest Penguin Chick

Thursday, June 29, 2017 - by Casey Phillips, Tennessee Aquarium

It may only weigh a few pounds, but two outsized features of the Tennessee Aquarium’s newest penguin chick — its feet — have already earned it an unofficial nickname. 

Born on June 5 to experienced parents Bug and Big T., the large feet of the newest addition to Penguins’ Rock immediately inspired the moniker “Big Foot.” 

“Our animal trainer Holly Gibson chose that name, and it is very fitting,” says Senior Aviculturist Loribeth Lee. “Besides his belly, the feet are the biggest thing on this guy right now! Penguin chicks have almost comically large feet until they grow into them. Having big feet helps penguins to balance while they are so oddly shaped.” 

This nickname is just a placeholder. It will be replaced by an official name chosen from a crop of keeper-selected alternatives during a public contest on the Aquarium’s Facebook page later this year. 

Aquarium staff began noticing signs that the chick was breaking out of its egg, a process called “pipping,” at 8 a.m. on June 5. The baby Gentoo was fully hatched at 3:30 p.m., a faster-than-average pace, Ms. Lee says. 

The chick’s gender will remain indeterminate until November, when it can be properly assessed by staff during the colony’s next round of semi-annual physical exams. A drop of the chick’s blood will be sent to a lab, and the DNA results will be available a few days later. 

For now, the Aquarium’s penguin experts are closely monitoring the chick’s growth and health, Ms. Lee says.  

“The first four weeks of a chick’s life are the most concerning, as there are lots of obstacles to overcome,” she says. “We will continue to keep a close eye on this little bird, especially making sure the nest stays clean and the chick continues to get fed by both parents.” 

Until the arrival of its water-proof adult feathers in six to seven weeks, the chick will remain safely corralled with its parents behind a clear, acrylic “play pen.” This barrier around the nest keeps nosey neighbors at flipper’s length away and prevents the baby penguin from accidentally tumbling into the water. 

Despite the uncertainty of this early period in its development, so far the chick has exhibited robust vitals and a healthy appetite. And it is gaining weight at a healthy rate, which indicates the chick’s body should start catching up with its enormous feet soon. 

“We like to see the chicks on the higher end of the weight range, as if they do have a drop in weight at any point, then it is less critical than a bird who is on the low end of the weight range,” she says. 

The chick’s parents, Bug and Big T., are one of the exhibit’s most prolific breeding pairs, having successfully hatched four chicks: Roxie, Bobber, Rodan and Terk. In all, the residents of Penguins’ Rock have hatched 20 chicks since 2009. 

“Even after seeing over 20 chicks hatch here, it never gets old,” Ms. Lee says. “It’s so exciting to have a new young one in the group and watching our guests enjoy their progress! The best part of my job is seeing thriving birds in the exhibit, and this one seems to be doing well so far.”

The chick will reach its full, adult size when it is about 75 days old and its full adult weight a few months later after its swim muscles develop. Aquarium guests can learn more and interact with experts during penguin presentations at 10:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. each day. The public can also keep an eye on its growth over the coming weeks by watching the live Penguins’ Rock web cam at http://www.tnaqua.org/animals-exhibits/penguins-rock-cam/


This Week's Tennessee Tourism Round Up

Behind The BigPicture Event Is Nov. 8 At The Tennessee Aquarium

This Week's Tennessee Tourism Round Up


Cities and attractions will offer special deals and ceremonies for Veterans Day in honor of their service. Get in the holiday spirit at holiday markets and seasonal musts like Elvis Presley’s ... (click for more)

Get the inside story behind the spectacular images from the BigPicture Natural World Photography exhibit - the best wildlife and conservation photos from around the globe – during a special reception ... (click for more)

Honor veterans and their service, celebrate the fall harvest with night hikes and campfire s’mores, vinyasa at the Music City Yoga Festival or get in the holiday spirit at Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain ... (click for more)


Travel

This Week's Tennessee Tourism Round Up

Cities and attractions will offer special deals and ceremonies for Veterans Day in honor of their service. Get in the holiday spirit at holiday markets and seasonal musts like Elvis Presley’s Graceland Lighting Ceremony, A Country Christmas at Gaylord Opryland, Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Christmas and Gatlinburg Winter Magic. Enjoy a Parents’ Night Out, head to the drive-in for ... (click for more)

Behind The BigPicture Event Is Nov. 8 At The Tennessee Aquarium

Get the inside story behind the spectacular images from the BigPicture Natural World Photography exhibit - the best wildlife and conservation photos from around the globe – during a special reception and presentation at the Tennessee Aquarium on Thursday, Nov. 8, from 5:30-7:30 p.m. Nationally acclaimed wildlife photographer Donna Bourdon will share secrets to capturing dramatic ... (click for more)

Breaking News

City Council Considering Interim Ordinance Curbing Development Of Steep Slopes, Floodplains

The City Council is considering action soon on an interim ordinance curbing development of steep slopes and floodplains. The measure would limit development of slopes of 33 percent grade or more to 20 percent of those steep grades. It would allow no more than 51 percent of a floodplain to be developed. A large number of developers in the audience indicated they are strongly ... (click for more)

Several Large Trucks Get Stuck On Lookout; 1 Demolishes Wall On Ochs Extension

Lookout Mountain, Tn., Commissioner Jim Bentley said there has been a lot of concern with large trucks on Ochs Highway. In the past month five different trucks have been stuck at the top of the road. Additionally, a large truck hit and demolished the rock wall at the top curve on Ochs Extension. These roads are both owned and maintained by the city of Chattanooga. Commissioner ... (click for more)

Opinion

Thanks To First Volunteer Bank

Thank you to the Highway 58 branch of First Volunteer Bank. On behalf of the Ernie Pyle Chapter of the Military Order of the Purple Heart, I would like to express our appreciation to the manager and staff of the HIghway 58 Branch of First Volunteer Bank for putting on a Veterans Day lunch in the lobby of your bank on Friday, Nov. 9. It was a cold and rainy day and Army, Marines ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: It’s A Racist Thing

Being a child of the South, I’ve marveled at our funny sayings for all of my life. I’ve been at a football game and heard a disgruntled fan in the stands say of his team’s quarterback, “That boy couldn’t play dead in a cowboy movie.” I’ve been at the Sunday supper table and heard, “I’m of a mind each one of his sermons is better than the next.” And I’ve sat in a Saturday morning ... (click for more)