Sunday 25th September 2016                 Change text size:

Giant penguins roamed Antarctica 37m years ago, fossils reveal



emperor penguins by Christopher Michel via Flickr

Newly uncovered fossil evidence suggests that giant penguins once roamed Antarctica, around 37 million years ago.

Standing at around 2m, alaeeudyptes klekowskii would have been taller than most humans. Experts estimate the flightless bird would have weighed in at around 115kg.

For comparison, emperor penguins, the largest penguins still alive today, reach 1.4m at most, and can weigh around 45kg. 

Researchers have not been able to piece together a full skeleton, but from fragments found at the fossil-rich Seymour Island have been able to estimate the giant’s stature.

“This is definitely a big penguin,” Dan Ksepka of the Bruce Museum told New Scientist

According to a study published this week, some of the long-dead bird’s modern day relatives may soon disappear into the fossil record themselves.

The international project found that all 18 surviving penguin species are increasingly threatened by of a combination of manmade factors, including climate change and overfishing

In 2013, eleven penguin species were officially listed as ‘threatened’ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), with another two listed as ‘near threatened’.

Photo: Christopher Michel via Flickr

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Further reading:

Emperor penguins at extinction risk because of climate change

All penguin species at risk because of human activity

Penguins scale cliffs to escape climate change

Climate change major threat to biodiversity, study says

Climate change linked to penguin chicks deaths in Argentina

 


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