Human-sized fossil penguin discovery


This video from the USA says about itself:

Ancient penguin was as big as a (human) Pittsburgh Penguin

12 December 2017

NEW YORK — Fossils from New Zealand have revealed a giant penguin that was as big as a grown man, roughly the size of the captain of the Pittsburgh Penguins. The creature was slightly shorter in length and about 20 pounds heavier than the official stats for hockey star Sidney Crosby.

It measured nearly 5 feet, 10 inches long when swimming and weighed in at 223 pounds. If the penguin and the Penguin faced off on the ice, however, things would look different. When standing, the ancient bird was maybe only 5-foot-3.

The newly found bird is about 7 inches longer than any other ancient penguin that has left a substantial portion of a skeleton, said Gerald Mayr of the Senckenberg Research Institute and Natural History Museum in Frankfurt, Germany. A potentially bigger rival is known only from a fragment of leg bone, making a size estimate difficult.

The biggest penguin today, the emperor in Antarctica, stands less than 4 feet tall. Mayr and others describe the giant creature in a paper released Tuesday by the journal Nature Communications.

They named it Kumimanu biceae, which refers to Maori words for a large mythological monster and a bird, and the mother of one of the study’s authors. The fossils are 56 million to 60 million years old. That’s nearly as old as the very earliest known penguin fossils, which were much smaller, said Daniel Ksepka, curator at the Bruce Museum of Greenwich, Connecticut.

He has studied New Zealand fossil penguins but didn’t participate in the new study. The new discovery shows penguins “got big very rapidly” after the mass extinction of 66 million years ago that’s best known for killing off the dinosaurs, he wrote in an email.

That event played a big role in penguin history. Beforehand, a non-flying seabird would be threatened by big marine reptile predators, which also would compete with the birds for food. But once the extinction wiped out those reptiles, the ability to fly was not so crucial, opening the door for penguins to appear.

Birds often evolve toward larger sizes after they lose the ability to fly, Mayr said. In fact, the new paper concludes that big size appeared more than once within the penguin family tree. What happened to the giants? Mayr said researchers believe they died out when large marine mammals like toothed whales and seals showed up and provided competition for safe breeding places and food. The newcomers may also have hunted the big penguins, he said.

From LiveScience:

Giant Penguin: This Ancient Bird Was As Tall As a Refrigerator

By Laura Geggel, Senior Writer

December 12, 2017 03:21pm ET

The fossils of a refrigerator-size penguin were so gargantuan that the scientists who discovered them initially thought they belonged to a giant turtle. The ancient behemoth is now considered the second-largest penguin on record.

The newfound penguin species would have stood nearly 6 feet tall (1.8 meters) and weighed about 220 lbs. (100 kilograms) during its heyday tens of millions of years ago.

The bird’s gigantism indicates that “a very large size seems to have developed early on in penguin evolution, soon after these birds lost their flight capabilities,” said study co-lead researcher Gerald Mayr, a curator of ornithology at the Senckenberg Research Institute, in Germany. [In Photos: The Amazing Penguins of Antarctica]

At first, the researchers thought the penguin fossils belonged to a turtle, said study co-lead researcher Alan Tennyson, a vertebrate curator at the Museum of New Zealand (Te Papa Tongarewa), who discovered the fossil with paleontologist Paul Scofield on a beach in New Zealand’s Otago province in 2004.

But shortly after a fossil technician began preparing the specimen in 2015, he found a part of the shoulder blade, known as the coracoid, which revealed that the fossils came from a penguin, Tennyson told Live Science.

Further analysis dated the penguin to between 55 million and 59 million years ago, meaning that it lived a mere 7 million to 11 million years after an asteroid slammed into Earth and killed the nonavian dinosaurs, Mayr said.

The researchers named the late-Paleocene penguin Kumimanu biceae. Its genus name, Kumimanu, was inspired by the Maori indigenous culture of New Zealand. In the Maori culture, “kumi” is a mythological monster, and “manu” is the Maori word for “bird.” The species name, biceae, honors Tennyson’s mother, Beatrice “Bice” A. Tennyson, who encouraged him to pursue his interest in natural history.

K. biceae didn’t look much like modern penguins. Although researchers could not find its skull, they “know from similarly aged fossils that the earliest penguins had much longer beaks, which they probably used to spear fishes, than their modern relatives [do],” Mayr told Live Science. Like its modern cousins, however, K. biceae would have already developed typical penguin feathers, waddled with an upright stance and sported flipper-like wings that helped it swim, he added.

Researchers have discovered other ancient penguin fossils in New Zealand, including those of Waimanu manneringi, which lived about 61 million years ago. However, the largest penguin on record is Palaeeudyptes klekowskii, which lived about 37 million years ago in Antarctica. P. klekowskii stood about 6.5 feet (2 m) tall and weighed a whopping 250 lbs. (115 kg), according to a 2014 study in the journal Comptes Rendus Palevol (Palevol Reports).

Given that the Antarctic penguin was larger than K. biceae, it’s likely that “giant size evolved more than once in penguin evolution”, Mayr said.

K. biceae is a “cool fossil,” said Daniel Ksepka, a curator at the Bruce Museum in Greenwich, Connecticut, who was not involved in the research. “It’s very old; it’s almost as old as the oldest known penguins anywhere”, Ksepka told Live Science. “That shows that [penguins] got big really quickly. And it all seems to have happened in New Zealand.” [Photos of Flightless Birds: All 18 Penguin Species]

But why was New Zealand a penguin paradise? The archipelago was surrounded by fish for penguins to eat, and it originally had no native mammals (although today it’s home to many sheep, weasels and domestic pets), meaning that there were no predators to bother the penguins when they came ashore to molt their feathers and lay eggs, Ksepka said.

The study was published online today (Dec. 12) in the journal Nature Communications.

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King penguins and elephant seals


This 29 November 2017 video from South Georgia says about itself:

360° Elephant Seals And King Penguin Chicks #OurBluePlanet – BBC Earth

African penguins pack hunting of fish, video


This New Scientist video says about itself:

African penguins hunt fish in packs

27 September 2017

Cameras strapped to African penguins reveal that the birds team up to hunt shoals of fish. Read more here.

New Zealand rainforest penguins


This video from New Zealand says about itself:

Unravelling the secret (marine) life of the Fiordland penguin

31 May 2017

Our first video, choker full of info on Fiordland penguins – what we know about them (not a lot) and what the Tawaki Project aims at learning about the species. Consider it a kind of an origin story.

From BirdLife:

4 July 2017

Penguins of the remote rainforest

Grab a kayak, hiking boots and become an expert at crawling through rocks if you want to discover New Zealand‘s hidden Fiordland Penguins, or “tawaki”. But why are they going hungry?

By Shaun Hurrell

There’s a saying that says biting insects exist to protect beautiful places from humans. In Fiordland, which forms the remote and rugged southwest of the South Island, this almost rings true, wherein hides mainland New Zealand’s hidden rainforest penguins. “Most New Zealanders wouldn’t recognise a tawaki as a native species”, says Thomas Mattern, researcher at Otago University, and penguin specialist part of The Tawaki Project.

Despite striking yellow feathers above their eyes, Fiordland Penguins Eudyptes pachyrhynchus are hard to see. Named after a Maori god that walked the earth, Tawaki, they are actually quite a timid species and live in small scattered colonies in the steep and water-weathered forests of New Zealand’s fiords, a place only accessible by water or multi-day treks through clouds of irritating biting sandflies. Whilst thousands of tourists brave bad weather for boat trips into these stunning landscapes, the plight of the tawakiis not well known. On Stewart Island too, they do not want to be found, shrouding themselves in very dense vegetation, rock crevices and even sea caves only accessible underwater. With a range that has retreated since the arrival of humans, you can see why they might be so timid.

“We are only beginning to understand the threats tawaki face”

“To date, little is known about their ecology”, says Thomas. He, together with Robin Long – who works as a ranger for the West Coast Penguin Trust and grew up in this remote environment – are now experts at crawling between jagged rocks and kayaking through rain-splattered fiords to find these 55 cm tall penguins, as part of the Tawaki Project, to learn more of their breeding and foraging success by using camera traps on nests and fitting waterproof GPS tags. Last summer, El Niño hit the penguins hard: data loggers revealed some tawaki heading 100 km out to sea to search for food. “A lot of chicks died of starvation”, says Thomas. “We found some with just sticks and mud in their stomachs.”

Unfortunately, most crested penguin populations have been declining during the last century, and tawaki do not seem to be an exception, listed by BirdLife as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List. The population is estimated to range between 5,500 and 7,000 birds, and at some sites their numbers are believed to have declined by as much as 30% in just ten years. Whilst sandflies help keep some humans away, human-introduced stoats trigger cameras as they prey on penguin eggs and chicks. Also, rising ocean temperatures probably disrupt prey availability, fisheries may compete for resources or result in accidental bycatch, and pollution from oil exploration could also become a major problem for these birds. Funding for more research is key: “We are only beginning to understand the threats tawaki face”, says Robin. “We need to know a lot more to come up with effective ways to protect the species.”

Read more about the penguins of New Zealand.

Tangled and drowned: new study links penguin declines with fishing activity: here.

New Zealand penguins


This video from New Zealand says about itself:

Why are penguins black and white?

23 June 2017

So, all penguins are, for the most part, black and white. But why is that? Has it something to do with blending into the environment or is it perhaps something entirely different?

From BirdLife:

3 July 2017

The Little People of Sea Land

Tucked away in rainforests, rocky crevices or under parked cars, these hidden (and not-so-well-hidden) birds are having a rough ride. Welcome to New Zealand, home to one third of the world’s penguins

By Shaun Hurrell

Car tyres rumble on tarmac. Ferries blast their horns. The smell of roasted coffee lingers and small waves carve into concrete harbour walls. Whilst only a stone’s throw from the lush native bush and outdoor adventure that New Zealand is often famed for, Wellington, on North Island’s southern tip, is very much a city, and its busy streets are home to over 400,000 people. Why is it then that a seabird with flippers is sheltering under a car at the water’s edge?

No, it is not an escapee from a zoo, disorientated by passing headlights. This is actually its home too, and as dusk arrives, strange noises can be heard from between rocks as more of these creatures raucously call out for a mate.

Yes, they are penguins. In a capital city. In the same place where people stroll their dogs along the breezy sea wall, penguins come ashore to find a place to nest; a far cry from Antarctica’s icebergs and the crashing southern oceanic waves where you’d expect to find the world’s famously cute black-and-white aquatic birds. Oh, and in Wellington, the penguins happen to be blue too…

New Zealand coastlines and islands harbour no less than six of the world’s 18 penguin species, and 13 species in total have turned up in the New Zealand region (including the Ross Dependency of Antarctica) – more than any other country. New Zealand is, in theory, a global penguin sanctuary. With a bespoke governmental Department of Conservation (DOC) holding 30% of the green and diverse land for protection and recreation, you could be lulled into a false sense of security. But this wasn’t always the case: human arrival on the islands 700 years ago set into motion a downward trend for penguins. And while now DOC does make a big difference with invasive predator control and disturbance management, the agency receives less than half a per cent of the government’s annual budget. Despite the best efforts from those involved, penguins are far from safe, on land or at sea.

Accustomed to close urban encounters with Little “Blue” Penguins, and with one of the rarest penguins adorning their $5 note, you could be forgiven for thinking that New Zealanders are all penguin conservation experts. But there is another side to the story: one of penguins hidden by rainforests and dangers masked by the ocean’s foreboding surface.

What’s black and white and red all over?

Not a penguin with sunburn, but a penguin listed as threatened on the Red List, and it’s not funny. Some penguins might be hard to reach, but the dangers to the second-most threatened seabird group are becoming clear. New Zealand’s sunny shores and seas need much attention if they are to safeguard its two Endangered (Yellow-eyed and Erect-crested), and three Vulnerable species (Fiordland, Southern Rockhopper and Snares).

It all started with the arrival of humans in the thirteenth century. From early exploitation for food by Polynesian settlers, to clearance of breeding habitat and the introduction of mammalian predators, whether deliberately or accidentally, humans quickly meant bad news for penguin populations on New Zealand’s islands. “Waitaha Penguin” (potentially related to Yellow-eyed) was discovered through analysis of subfossil bones in 2008, and is thought to have been extirpated by early Polynesian settlers; while as late as the nineteenth century, the “Chatham Penguin” (potentially another crested species) went extinct on the Chatham Islands, shortly after Europeans arrived there.

This gung-ho entrepreneur’s team clubbed over three million penguins to death in thirty years

One of the earliest ever international conservation campaigns began because of – not thanks to – one New Zealander, Joseph Hatch. In the early 20th Century, this gung-ho entrepreneur and former Mayor of Invercargill began a commercial project which nearly wiped out an entire colony of King Penguins on Macquarie Island (to Australia). His team clubbed over three million penguins to death in thirty years and built big, metal “steam-pressure digesters” with which to reduce these fantastic birds to nothing but oil. Thankfully, international scientists and polar explorers objected and the oiling industry was halted before utter destruction. Today, although not as blatant as the threat of Hatch’s clubs, the threats to New Zealand’s penguins are no less severe and warrant an inspired new global campaign to save them.

Between sea and land, home or graveyard

“Penguins cannot range far from their nesting sites while foraging to feed their chicks, so require abundant food near to the coast”, says Karen Baird, Seabird Advocate for Forest & Bird (BirdLife in New Zealand). “Both direct and indirect impacts from fishing are a threat to penguins’ food supply, exacerbated by environmental changes from a warming planet.” Of all New Zealand’s penguins, only Snares seems to have a stable food supply, but that doesn’t mean it is not threatened – there is an ever-ominous danger of a rat invasion, plus potential for oil exploration and fisheries bycatch because there is no official marine protection for the tiny 3.5 km2 subantarctic island group this species is restricted to. “Bycatch” – accidental capture or collision with fishing gear – affects many penguin species (and other seabirds).

“Time is not on our side”, says Karen. “We need to reduce the impacts we know are occurring to penguins now, as climate change impacts are set to make everything that much worse.” The response required is multi-faceted: better management of land-based impacts, and vital protection at sea both to prevent bycatch and to preserve foraging habitat. “We need a coordinated approach to protect penguins”, says Karen. “Establishing a Penguin Recovery Group administered by DOC is also a priority.” But the foundation work needs more support: “We also need to undertake penguin surveys to determine population trends, more ‘Places for Penguins’ management and support for vital research to underpin the management decisions that will make a difference for these special birds.”

“We need to reduce known threats to penguins now, before climate change impacts make everything that much worse”

As well as launching a global campaign to put penguin conservation in the spotlight and raise vital funds, BirdLife is researching penguin bycatch further and calls for more observers on board New Zealand vessels. Meanwhile, Forest & Bird is also heavily advocating for large Marine Protected Areas for the east and southeast coastlines, but more reserves are needed elsewhere. “I want a future where New Zealand is a wild penguin sanctuary”, says Karen.

In Wellington city, a local walker sees a group of Little Penguins emerge from the water’s edge like a cauldron of bubbling blue oil and hurriedly stumble up the harbour rocks, back from a marathon day trip foraging. She smiles, watching them walk like little humans. She puts her dog on its lead and “tweets” a photo of a penguin preening its feathers, but she seems troubled as she gazes out to the dark ocean, imagining the gauntlet of threats this Little Blue faces out there.

Little Blue neighbours. They can be found nesting on people’s doorsteps, or quite literally underneath them. Meet the world’s smallest penguins, unwillingly urban birds who are being given new homes by local volunteers: here.

Work by Forest & Bird on land is helping the Yellow-eyed Penguin, but threats at sea are very worrying: here.

African penguin news on World Oceans Day


This video from South Africa says about itself:

African Penguins colony at Boulders Beach, Table Mountain National Park filmed by Paul and Linsey Brown in September 2012.

Recorded on Panasonic HX-WA10 Palmcorder; Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ30 Compact Camera and GoPro HD2. Edited using Final Cut Pro X.

From BirdLife:

Hello Friend,

Today, on World Oceans Day, we wanted to share some exciting news about the release of five rehabilitated ‘Endangered’ African Penguins from a safe area in Plettenburg Bay this Saturday, 10th June.

BirdLife, with BirdLife South Africa and other organisations, is leading on an ambitious plan to start a new mainland penguin breeding colony in Plettenberg Bay. It was decided that rehabilitated penguins should be released from Plettenberg Bay as a part of this process.

Please will you help us protect penguins by making a donation?

Adult and juvenile penguins are often seen in the waters around Plettenberg Bay, but are occasionally found injured, sick or moulting where they are vulnerable to predators. Over the last four months, the Tenikwa Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre has rescued five penguins: two with injuries, one with avian malaria and two who were moulting. The penguins have recovered well and are ready to be returned to the ocean.

They will be released at Lookout Beach in Plettenberg Bay this Saturday to celebrate World Oceans Day. This area has been chosen for its plentiful stocks of sardines and anchovies, which is perfect for these birds.

We are still working hard to protect all penguin species – and would be so grateful if you would support us by protecting a penguin now. With your help we can continue creating positive stories like this for penguins across the Southern Hemisphere.

This work is only possible with the support of people like you. Thank you.

Best wishes,

Maggie Balaskas
Penguins Campaign Coordinator, BirdLife International

Researchers from the University’s Institute of Translational Medicine have determined the most effective drug dose to help penguins in managed care fight off disease: here.

Emperor penguin chicks video


This video says about itself:

[Emperor] Penguin Chicks Struggle To Survive – Planet Earth – BBC Earth

22 May 2017

The urge for Penguins to parent their chicks is incredibly strong, and in this footage we are given a wonderful insight into the role both parents play in raising their young. Braving the severe conditions of Antarctica poses a huge obstacle, so if the chicks are to survive until summer it will be thanks to the extraordinary hardships endured by their parents.