Giant penguin fossils discovered

This video from the USA says about itself:

30 September 2010

Paleontologists have unearthed the first extinct penguin with preserved evidence of scales and feathers. The 36-million-year-old fossil from Peru shows the new giant penguin’s feathers were reddish brown and grey, distinct from the black tuxedoed look of living penguins. The animal was nearly five feet tall.

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

Pick up a penguin: remains of giant red species found

Scientists believe discovery could explain how the smaller, modern-day creature evolved

* Sam Jones
* Thursday 30 September 2010 19.00 BST

Scientists have discovered the fossilised remains of an enormous red-feathered penguin that cast a long and waddling shadow across the shores of Peru 36m years ago.

The fossils of the beast, which were discovered by Peruvian student Ali Altamirano in the Paracas National Reserve on the country’s southern coast, could help explain how its modern descendants evolved.

The new species – known as Inkayacu paracasensis, from the Quechua for water king – was nearly one-and-a-half metres tall, making it twice the size of its largest living relative, the Emperor penguin.

Its plumage was as distinctive as its stature. Feathers still attached to the bird’s wing revealed that it would have been reddish-brown and grey in contrast with the black-and-white of living penguins.

After finding a patch of scaly, soft tissue preserved on one of the penguin’s exposed flippers, the team nicknamed it Pedro after the hero of a Colombian telenovela.

Pedro’s remains show that while the flipper and feather shapes that makes penguins such excellent swimmers evolved early on, the colour patterning of modern penguins is likely to be a far more recent development.

Like living penguins, and unlike all other birds, the creature’s feathers were radically modified in shape, densely packed and stacked on top of each other to form stiff, narrow flippers.

Researchers established Pedro’s plumage colours by comparing its melanosomes – the tiny, pigment-carrying structures within cells that give birds’ feathers their hues – with those of living penguins.

In a paper published today in the online edition of the journal Science, they report that the fossil‘s melanosomes were much smaller than those of its modern descendants.

The melanosomes found in today’s penguins give their feathers great resistance to wear and fracturing, leading the researchers to speculate that the change in their feathers may been produced in response to the birds’ aquatic lifestyle.

The change in colouration, they argue, could also be explained by the arrival of penguin predators such as seals.

“Before this fossil, we had no evidence about the feathers, colours and flipper shapes of ancient penguins,” said Julia Clarke, a palaeontologist at the University of Texas at Austin’s Jackson School of Geosciences and the lead author of the paper. “We had questions and this was our first chance to start answering them.”

See also here. And here. And here. And here. And here. And here. And here.

The only prehistoric bird ever to be mentioned in an H.P. Lovecraft novel–albeit indirectly, as a blind, murderous, feathered albino–Anthropornis was the largest penguin of Eocene Australia, circa 40 million years ago, attaining heights of close to six feet and weights in the neighborhood of 200 pounds: here.

Emperor penguins mass mourning after chicks die on Antarctic ice shelf. The Daily Telegraph: here.

How blue penguins got their colored tuxes: here.

3 thoughts on “Giant penguin fossils discovered

  1. Pingback: Antarctic penguin fossils | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  2. Pingback: Emperor penguin vagrant in New Zealand | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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