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African Penguin Wears Wetsuit Until Feathers Grow Back

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Yellow Pink is a 14-year-old male African penguin, at Mystic Aquarium in Mystic.   Though healthy, he is displaying “premature feather loss,” or the loss of feathers and absence of new feather growth. As the cold New England winter approached, the aquarium’s animal care team knew he needed help to stay warm.

A team of Mystic Aquarium’s penguin trainers, veterinarians and research scientists. Designed and created his custom neoprene wetsuit made from one of Mystic Aquarium’s old diving wetsuits.  Yellow Pink will wear the wetsuit while swimming until he molts and grows new feathers.

African penguins’ dense feathers (70 per square inch) protect them from the cold and are coated with oil from a gland located at the base of their tail. Every year they typically experience “catastrophic molting,” which includes shedding and growing all new feathers over a two-week period. This adaptation allows them to swim after completing the cycle, insulated and resistant to water.  Sometimes molting doesn’t proceed as expected which is what happened to Yellow Pink.

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