March of the Fossil Penguins

Fossil penguin discoveries and research

Penguins in Africa

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For the next few months, part of my research is going to be focused on South Africa’s fossil penguins.  These species are much younger than most of the others we’ve talked about in this blog, like Inkayacu and Paraptenodytes.   They come from Pliocene age rocks about 5 million years old, and most of the bones look similar to modern species.  Although each type of penguin from the African fossil record has been given a different genus name, they may all belong in the tuxedo penguin genus Spheniscus.  Figuring that out is one part of the research project.  Another is figuring out where each of these species came from.  Penguins can travel long distances, and species like the King Penguin which live very far from Africa occasionally show up by accident.  It is possible that a handful of wayward birds orignally founded the first penguin colony in Africa.  Understanding how each species is related to others from around the world can help tell where they might have originally come from.  As this project progresses, I’ll post more of what our team finds.

 

Jackass Penguins lounging indolently in the hot sun at Boulders breach, Cape Town

 

 

Today, only one species of penguins lives on the continent, in southernmost Africa.  Penguins of the  Jackass penguin species (Spheniscus demerus)  live along the coast right up against human dwellings.  So close that a fence keeps them aways from the road and some special plastic “burrows” are provided to make up for lost habitat.   In the parking lot, a sign urges drivers to “Check Under Car for Penguins” before driving off.  As the photo above reminds us, these and many other penguins prefer warm climates to Antarctica.

Written by Dan Ksepka

December 5, 2010 at 1:55 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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