Giant penguins stopped flying and began swimming 66 million years ago

Researchers They found the fossil records of giant penguins of just over a meter and a half, showing that they flew through the waters of the southern hemisphere, along with smaller forms, similar in size to some species that live in Antarctica today.

The just described Kupoupou stilwelli was found in the Chatham Islands geographically in the South Pacific near New Zealand. Furthermore, it appears to be the oldest known penguin with proportions close to its modern relatives.

It lived between 62 and 60 million years ago at a time when there was no ice sheet at the South Pole and the seas around it were tropical or subtropical.

Name Kupoupou It is derived from the native language of the indigenous Moriori people of the Chatham Islands.

Jacob Blokland photographed with fossils in the laboratory of Flinders University. Photo: Flinders University
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Survive and adapt

Scientists say the extreme diversity indicates that after the cataclysmic asteroid that swept through the dinosaurs hit Earth, birds quickly changed to adapt and some took to the seas to survive.

For its part, Blokland of Flinders University said that finding so many species of giant penguins on and around the east coast of the South Island suggests that this area played an important role in their development and may even be where they originated.

The same researcher described the new species based on the fossilized bones of five partial skeletons. Two other specimens showed that a second larger penguin species was also present on the Chatham Islands, but there was not enough material to formally name it.

All the skeletons described were found on the Chatham Islands between 2006 and 2011.

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The study supports the theory that penguins evolved rapidly shortly after the period when dinosaurs still walked the land and giant marine reptiles swam in the sea.

Finally, the Dr Paul Scofield, Curator of the Canterbury Museum, said:

“It is not impossible that penguins lost the ability to fly and gained the ability to swim after the extinction event 66 million years ago. If we ever find a penguin fossil from the Cretaceous period we will know for sure. “

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THE MAMMUTS GRADUALLY EXTINGUISHED
Location of the Chatham Islands.

  • Depending on the species, they can lay one or up to three eggs, which are incubated in a period of 24 to 45 days.
  • Vocalizations are the main way that penguins communicate with each other.
  • Depending on the species, the depth in which they submerge can reach up to 1,700 meters.
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