Ancient penguin reconstructed

Two Kairuku penguins come ashore, passing a stranded Waipatia dolphin. (Artwork by Chris Gaskin. Owner and copyright owner: Geology Museum, University of Otago. Used with permission.)

When we think about penguins, paleontology is not the first thought that comes to mind. What comes to mind is large birds that waddle on land and swim better than they would ever fly. And of course, thanks to the movie March of the Penguins, the parental and paternal dedication of the Emperor penguins. 

However, we are still learning more wondrous things about this species. Recently, scientists in New Zealand were able to build a model of a prehistoric penguin that lived more than 27 million years ago. Dubbed the Kairuku penguin, this species stood at nearly five feet, taller than the emperor penguin. The first fossil of the Kairuku penguin was found nearly 30 years ago. However, only recently have the scientists been able to reconstruct a model using two separate fossils and the skeleton structure of modern penguins. Unlike their present day cousins, the Kairuku penguins' hands were slender, they had curvier beaks and the species lived for about 25 million years.

Scientists are hopeful that studying the penguins will give us insight into state of the world after the dinosaur era and reasons why these penguin species became extinct. Possible causes for extinction include climate change. This research was recently published in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology and has received wide press coverage.

What do you think of these findings? Leave your comments below.

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