The ‘Missing link’ penguin fossil shows how they evolved after the extinction of the dinosaurs.
Penguins are not always petite we know they are today. Once giant penguins the size of a human existed.
Moreover, scientists discovered fossils that act as the missing link to the penguins’ evolution. And this all happened after the dinosaurs went extinct.
‘MISSING LINK’ penguin fossil found
Fossils from five partial skeletons found on the Chatham Islands near New Zealand’s South Island. The fossils found in the remote area during excavation from 2006 to 2011. The group led by Monash University paleontologist Jeffrey Stilwell.
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The fossils belonged to the newly discovered species Kupoupou stilwelli, the oldest known penguin similar to the size of penguins we have today. Its name derived from the indigenous Moriori people of Chatham Islands. Kupoupou means “diving bird” in their language.
For instance, this penguin lived around 60 to 62 million years ago. This was after the extinction of the dinosaurs 66 million years ago. Further, the oceans were tropical and sub-tropical with no ice in the south pole.
The study published Monday, December 9, in the journal Palaeontologia Electronica.
Further, Jacob Blokland, study author, and a Ph.D. paleontology candidate at Flinders University said.
Next to its colossal human-sized cousins, including the recently described monster penguin Crossvallia waiparensis, Kupoupou was comparatively small — no bigger than modern King Penguins, which stand just under 1.1 meters [3.6 feet] tall.
Kupoupou also had proportionally shorter legs than some other early fossil penguins. In this respect, it was more like the penguins of today, meaning it would have waddled on land.
Therefore, like modern penguins, ancient penguins perform best in the water.