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Scientists Discover Giant Penguin Fossil (Video)

Scientists Discover Giant Penguin Fossil (Video)

Modern penguins are small and cute, but scientists in Peru have discovered the 36-million-year-old remains of an extinct penguin that was nearly five feet tall.

Palenontologists from the University of Texas at Austin have dubbed the new species, Inkayacu paracasensis, meaning Water King. They believe this massive water bird was about twice the size of an Emperor penguin, the largest penguin species alive today.

There is also evidence that unlike current penguins, the Water King had reddish brown and grey feathers.

“Before this fossil, we had no evidence about the feathers, colors and flipper shapes of ancient penguins,” says Julia Clarke, lead author of a paper on the discovery in Science. “We had questions and this was our first chance to start answering them.”

Bird feathers get some of their colors from the size, shape, and arrangement of nanoscale structures called melanosomes (Futurity.org).

In order to reconstruct the Water King’s coloring, researchers compared melanosomes from the fossil to those of living penguins.

They found that the meloanosomes from living bird species were different in shape, size, and arrangement than that of the fossil. These differences would have altered the feather microstructure on the nano and micro scale, giving the feathers of later birds more resistance to wear and fracturing.

It’s possible that penguin coloring changed over time to help the birds evade primary predators such as seals or to adapt to environmental changes.

Learn more about the Water King!

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Image Credit: University of Texas at Austin

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95 comments

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5:07AM PST on Nov 16, 2011

It is a miraculous find for science, as there are so little finds that are so old.

2:40PM PDT on May 25, 2011

I like penguins too.They are so cute.

4:18AM PDT on May 25, 2011

I love penguins :)

9:12PM PDT on Oct 14, 2010

Interesting, Thanks!

2:14AM PDT on Oct 10, 2010

Carole Brown says an almost total load of rubbish, creationists are just stupid ignorant people who believe any scientifically faulted twaddle spewed by money grubbing people, you are so utterly gullible, additionally it is quite inconcievable that there could be a god(as in human form) additionally would have to be no sex or at least female/feminine,just wake up & stop believing the religious fraudsters, just follow Jesus's example or Buddah? Missing link??? grow up many different ones have been found but not every one yet; until this large penguin was found they had little idea of its former existence. Missing link just look at some of the tea baggers then you might find 1!!??.

9:03PM PDT on Oct 7, 2010

Intriguing!

10:41PM PDT on Oct 6, 2010

Kim O'Connor... maybe Megalodon (definitely scary).

I love penguins. Those would be big enough to hug like a human. (Watch the beak.) Awesome.

5:19PM PDT on Oct 6, 2010

Interesting! This is so cool!

8:58AM PDT on Oct 6, 2010

COOL!

4:00AM PDT on Oct 6, 2010

Darwin never said he did not believe in God, and in fact did have a strong belief in God. He did claim that evolution was responsible for the diverse species. Personally, I think that the difference between giant redwoods and humans just too large a leap. It is a mixture of evolution and intelligent design. By the way they still have not found the "missing link" to this day, and it would seem they would have found numerous copies of those skeletal findings by now. A giant penguin just discovered, how fascinating.

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