Investigation of Ionized Calcium and Vitamin D3 in African Penguins (Spheniscus demersus)
IAAAM 2019
Jennilee Morrison*; Katherine Baine; Megan Klose; Robert George
Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies, Gatlinburg, TN, USA


After a case of severe osteodystrophy in an egg laying female African penguin, ionized calcium and Vitamin D3 levels were investigated in a group of African penguins. As no clinical signs were apparent before this female penguin presented with an acute synsacral-thoracic fracture, steps to ensure no other individual was at risk were undertaken.1 Other penguins within the collection were tested for ionized calcium and Vitamin D3. These were low (compared to other avian species) and the birds were begun on 1000 mg PO Vitamin D3/day and 500 mg PO calcium carbonate/day.1,2,3,4 These birds are all housed indoors with no UV access.5 No previous issues within this collection or reported from other aquaria for these birds. Repeat testing showed significant improvement in both values in the collection. Since starting the collection on supplementation, the diet has been changed to include a variety of fish species.1 After supplementation was begun, an increase in fertile eggs and thus hatched chicks increased in the population.1,5 This group continues to be monitored and supplemented. Future interests include comparing our values to wild African penguin values and comparing to penguins housed outdoors.

* Presenting author

Literature Cited

1.  Stanford M. Calcium metabolism. In: Harrison G, Lightfoot T. Clinical Avian Medicine. Palm Springs, FL: 2005. Spix: 141–151.

2.  Stanford M. Measurement of 25-hydroxycholecalciferol in captive grey parrots (Psittacus erithacus). Vet Rec. 2003;153:58–59.

3.  Stanford M. Measurement of ionized calcium in African grey parrots (Psittacus erithacus): The effect of diet. Proc Euro Comm Assoc Avian Vet. 2003;276–282.

4.  Adkesson MJ, Langan JN. Metabolic bone disease in juvenile Humboldt penguins (Spheniscus humboldti): Investigation of ionized calcium, parathyroid hormone, and vitamin D3 as diagnostics parameters. J Zoo Wildl Med. 2007;38(1):85–92.

5.  Stanford M. Effects of UVB radiation on calcium metabolism in psittacine birds. Vet Rec. 2006;159:236–241.


Speaker Information
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Jennilee Morrison
Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies
Gatlinburg, TN, USA

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