Paleontologists from the Natural Sciences Museum of La Plata Province, where Buenos Aires is located, made their discovery at the start of a summer expedition to Antarctica. Apparently the fossils indicate that this flightless bird stood taller than most people, at around 6 feet 5 inches.
Wow! Imagine looking up to see a penguin staring down at you!
“This is the largest penguin known to date in terms of height and body mass,” said researcher Carolina Acosta, who noted that the record had been held by emperor penguins, which reach heights of 1.2 meters (4 feet) tall.
Lead researcher Marcelo Reguero added that the find, announced Tuesday, will “allow for a more intensive and complex study of the ancestors of modern penguins.”
The team of researchers plans to return to the same location during Antarctica’s next summer to search for more fossils from this newly discovered species, in addition to studying its anatomy, how it might have moved around and what color plumage it might have sported. Past studies have revealed reddish brown and grey coloring, unlike the black and white of today’s penguins.
The scientists from the Natural Sciences Museum believe that the fossils date from the Oligene Epoch (about thirty-four million years ago), when the world was warmer than it is today. Antarctica was surrounded by water, but times were changing so that, for the first time in hundreds of millions of years, ice sheets began to form. Eventually the permanent ice that we see today covered the South Pole.
This is the second major discovery related to penguins this year.
From Everything Dinosaur:
Earlier this year, scientists from the Ashoro Museum of Palaeontology (Japan) uncovered the fossils of two new species of prehistoric penguin from the Waitaki region of New Zealand. One of these species Kairuku grebneffi, was estimated to have stood nearly five feet tall (1.5 metres) and may have weighed as much as 130 lbs (60 kilogrammes). At the time of this discovery, this species was declared the largest known in the fossil record, but this new discovery from Antarctica indicates an even larger prehistoric flightless bird.
Last summer, Care2′s Cathryn Wellner reported on the decline of at least 13 species of penguins, including two species of Antarctic penguins: the Emperor and the Chinstrap.
With these new discoveries, perhaps paleontologists will gain invaluable information about penguins that may help to protect them in the future.
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