This was originally posted on the I,Science Blog
The dulcet tones of Morgan Freeman and the journey of the Emperor penguins warmed the hearts of millions following the release of March of the Penguins. However, the evolutionary trail of the species is equally as interesting.
A new study, published in the journal Science, tells of the discovery of a ‘Giant Penguin’ fossil discovery with implications for our knowledge of the ancestry of the penguin. Found in Peru, the 5ft specimen shows several plumage features present in modern day penguins.
Known as Inkayacu paracasensis, or Water King, it lived in the late Eocene period, approximately 36 million years ago. The study was led by Julian Clarke of the University of Texas who said, “Before this fossil, we had no evidence about the feathers, colours and flipper shapes of ancient penguins.”
Despite several differences between the fossil, affectionately named “Pedro”, and its modern descendents the shapes of the flippers and feathers have helped to identify the passage of the common penguin from being bird with flight to being able to travel in a medium 800 times more dense and 70 times more viscous than air.
However, this isnt the only time that a ‘Giant penguin’ discovery has been reported. In 1948 several people reported observing a 15ft penguin first on Clearwater Beach, Florida then further affleild. Sightings reported included zoologist Ivan T. Sanderson who theorised that it had been somehow driven away from its natural habitat. It was later revealed that ‘Giant Penguin Hoax’ was a prank with the original sightings faked and the following sightings either observer error or more faked reports. For more faked penguin discoveries this video by the BBC is well worth a watch.