Wednesday, June 27, 2007

But how was its dance moves?

While reading one of the many free daily newspapers in Denmark, I noticed a small notice of the discovery of a penguin fossil in Peru. The fossil showed that there had been giant penguins in Peru in the past. The penguins, Icadyptes salasi, reached 1.5m in height – the current largest breed of penguins, only reaches 1m.

This small notice made me look at ScienceDaily to see if they covered this discovery, and I was not disappointed.

March Of The Giant Penguins: Prehistoric Equatorial Penguins Reached 5 Feet In Height

The article tells us that it’s not just one, but two pre-historic penguin species that have been uncovered in Peru.

The first of the new species, Icadyptes salasi, stood 5 feet tall and lived about 36 million years ago. The second new species, Perudyptes devriesi, lived about 42 million years ago, was approximately the same size as a living King Penguin (2 ½ to 3 feet tall) and represents a very early part of penguin evolutionary history. Both of these species lived on the southern coast of Peru.

The new finds changes how and when scientists think penguins spread.

These new penguin fossils are among the most complete yet recovered and call into question hypotheses about the timing and pattern of penguin evolution and expansion. Previous theories held that penguins probably evolved in high latitudes (Antarctica and New Zealand) and then moved into lower latitudes that are closer to the equator about 10 million years ago -- long after significant global cooling that occurred about 34 million years ago.

Perhaps the idea of penguins in Peru seems far-fetched to many, but there are actually still a living species of penguins there, though much smaller than the pre-historic species.

"We tend to think of penguins as being cold-adapted species," Clarke says, "even the small penguins in equatorial regions today, but the new fossils date back to one of the warmest periods in the last 65 million years of Earth's history. The evidence indicates that penguins reached low latitude regions more than 30 million years prior to our previous estimates."

Quite interesting.

BBC also writes about the story.

Apparently the find was reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, but I’m unable to located anything online.

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Blogger Kaethe said...

Well, it still had musculature suited to flying, so I'm betting it danced like a fly girl.

This is my favorite news of the month. What's not to love about giant Peruvian penguins?

July 03, 2007 3:02 PM  

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