The Evolution of Giant Prehistoric Penguins
Paleontologists have discovered that giant penguins that were almost 6 feet tall and weighed about 220 pounds roamed the earth over 61 million years ago. Researchers have uncovered some penguin fossils that they believe roamed the earth at the same time as the dinosaurs. The modern-day Emperor Penguin is the largest living penguin standing at about 3.9 feet tall and can swim at speeds up to 22mph. The discovery also found that some of the penguin’s ancestors might have been able to fly. They found the bones in the wing were fused together in the same way as those in flying birds. In the living penguins they have air sacs that help them to keep their buoyancy but in the ancient penguins they helped them to fly.
We may be able to know when exactly modern birds appeared with the help of studying the oldest fossils of the penguins. Researchers studied the fossils of leg bones discovered along the Waipara River in New Zealand’s Canterbury region were about 61 million years old. Avian Fossils that were unearthed in that region in previous searches were found to have been there about 4 million years after the extinction of the dinosaurs about 65 million years ago. The largest known extinct penguin was thought to have lived in Antarctica between 33 million to 45 million years ago. These new findings contradict what researchers suggested that penguins diverged from other birds of 62 million years ago.
The researchers revealed that the giant penguins may have reached their giant size early in their evolution. They were possibly driven to extinction by the growing marine mammals like seals and whales. These giant penguins may have had the same gait as the modern penguins in an upright waddle as opposed to the stoop.
This discovery sheds light on the evolution these flying birds to the adept swimmers that they are today.