October 4th, 2010 by Zachary Shahan
We don’t write on odd animal stories a ton here on Planetsave, but from time to time I see some that are too cool to pass up, like zedonk births, “extinct” foxes being spotted in the wild, and yellow lobsters being found by fishermen. This one about the skeleton of a nearly 5-foot (1.5-meter) tall penguin found in Peru falls under that too-cool-not-to-cover category.
Apparently, a 36-million-year-old fossil of a penguin that probably had mostly grey and reddish-brown feathers was found in Peru recently. It has been named Inkayacu paracasensis (water king) and is about twice as tall as the largest penguins living today, Emperor penguins. It was also given the friendly name of Pedro.
While we still have penguins living on Earth, researchers have not found a lot of old penguin feather fossils. “Penguin feathers are highly modified in form and function, but there have been no fossils to inform their evolution,” the authors write.
“Before this fossil, we had no evidence about the feathers, colors and flipper shapes of ancient penguins. We had questions and this was our first chance to start answering them,” says Julia Clarke, paleontologist at The University of Texas at Austin and lead author of the report on this new finding published in the journal Science.
This finding enlightened scientists to the fact that penguins have had flippers and feathers allowing for fast swimming for tens of millions of years, but that their distinctive black and white feathers are a newer thing.
Curious about how they determined the color of the feathers?
The researchers analyzed “fossilized color-imparting melanosomes,” comparing the new fossils to those in their library of fossils from living birds.
“Insights into the color of extinct organisms can reveal clues to their ecology and behavior,” said coauthor Jakob Vinther at Yale University.
“But most of all, I think it is simply just cool to get a look at the color of a remarkable extinct organism, such as a giant fossil penguin.”
Yes, that sounds like it would be very cool.
via Raw Story
Photo Credit: Artist reconstruction of Inkayacu paracasensis by Katie Browne via University of Texas.
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