THE GREEN PLANET BLOG - Our World and Environment...

All about conservation, ecology, the environment, climate change, global warming, earth- watch, and new technologies etc.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Red penguin fossil found in Peru...

University of Texas at Austin wordmark.Image via WikipediaRed penguin fossil found in Peru... .

It also showed signs of what makes penguins such formidable swimmers - it sports radically modified feathers which are densely packed and stacked on top of each other, forming stiff, narrow flippers, and its body feathers had broad shafts to help streamline the body.

Paleontologist Julia Clarke, lead author of the paper from the University of Texas at Austin's Jackson School of Geosciences, said: "Before this fossil, we had no evidence about the feathers, colours and flipper shapes of ancient penguins.

"We had questions and this was our first chance to start answering them."

The bird's colours were established by examining its melanosomes, or pigment cells, say reports in the journal Science.

By comparing them to a library of existing birds, they found they were more similar to other species than today's penguins - which have giant melanosomes, broader than any other bird.

The researchers say that the melanosomes on living penguins give the feathers a special microstructure, making them more resistant to wear.

This suggests that the evolution to black and white may have been to help cope with the demands of an aquatic lifestyle, with the colouring a secondary factor, although the colour change may have been to help it adapt to new forms of predator, say experts.

Co-author Jakob Vinther, of Yale University, said: "Insights into the colour of extinct organisms can reveal clues to their ecology and behaviour.

"But most of all, I think it is simply just cool to get a look at the colour of a remarkable extinct organism, such as a giant fossil penguin."

The bird was discovered by Peruvian student Ali Altamirano in Peru's Reserva Nacional de Paracas.

When the team noticed scaly soft tissue on an exposed foot, they nicknamed it 'Pedro' after a sleazy or "escamoso" (scaly) character from a Colombian TV show.

It is the latest penguin discovery by Ms Clarke's team in the country, suggesting Penguin's thrived there in the late Eocene period - 36 to 41 million years ago.

Acknowledgements: University of Texas

Labels: , , , , , , ,


At October 4, 2010 at 3:54 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love fossils. I think they are brilliant. I've found tonnes of fish ones at the beach but a penguin is AMAZING. Nice post.

At October 10, 2010 at 7:52 PM , Blogger Unknown said...

Thanks Holly. Fossils are classic examples of history!


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home