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"These Animals... Showed They Are Worthy of Being Followed"

From the BBC, unusual penguin behavior at San Francisco Zoo:

Penguins have become involved in a marathon swimming session at San Francisco Zoo.

Feathers appear to have been ruffled when six new birds were introduced to the colony in November.

The newcomers from Ohio took to the pool immediately and the other 46 joined in.

But instead of occasional dips, the penguins started swimming frenzied laps of the pool from dawn to dusk.

Nothing has deterred the birds: when zookeepers drained the pool for cleaning, they simply jumped in and waddled around the bottom.

Some experts believe the arrival of new birds from Ohio may have confused the existing colony of Magellan penguins.

One theory is that they are trying to migrate as penguins would in the wild.

Magellans typically travel up to 2,000 miles (3,200 kilometres) in search of food, but captive birds have not shown this type of behaviour before.

Another possible explanation is that the new birds set an example to be followed by the others in their repeated laps of the 130-foot (40-metre) long pool.

Ian Hiler of the Audobon Aquarium of the Americas told the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper: "Usually there are one or two dominant birds.

"Somehow these animals came up and showed they are worthy of being followed."

Keeper Jane Tollini has looked after penguins for 18 years, but she is baffled by the apparently bird-brained behaviour.

"The minute the six hit the pool, not only did they get in the pool and stay there, they convinced the other birds to do likewise," she said.

Six penguins arrive at one zoo from another and convince their 46 new companions to follow them around the pool continuously during daylight hours. It's an interesting phenomenon. How did the new penguins communicate their intent? What was it that led the other penguins to begin following them?

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