Love Is (Not) Blind

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Humans notice the details of their mates that make them unique. So too do African penguins, New Scientist reported.

These creatures have spots on their chest that form a unique pattern for each specimen. The spots appear when they are around three to five months old and remain in place as they shed their feathers year after year.

A group of Italian scientists identified the spots as a core element in helping African penguins find their partner in a crowd, making it the first discovery of a visual pattern used for recognition by any bird.

And this is critical: These creatures, being the great romantics that they are, mate for life, even as they remain part of large colonies.

The scientists, meanwhile, had already conducted a series of studies on these penguins, finding in 2021 that the penguins could recognize members of their own colony by their voices and physical appearance.

During this earlier research, scientists showed life-size images of African penguins to 12 penguins in a zoo in Rome, and also presented pictures where the heads were masked, or the dots were edited out.

With or without the head, the birds appeared to be looking at the picture of their partner longer than those of others. However, when presented with a spot-less picture of their partner and another penguin, they showed no preference.

It is not known, meanwhile, whether other nomad species of penguins can similarly recognize their mates. The species studied is sedentary.

Nonetheless, scientists said that penguins should be given more credit for their intelligence.

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