March of the Fossil Penguins

Fossil penguin discoveries and research

A Penguin Line Up

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One of our last stops on this research trip is the Otago Museum.  This museum, located in Dunedin, has an important collection of penguin fossils, including many of the specimens that Dr. Brian Marples collected in the 1940s and 1950s.  One of the exhibits features a line up of penguin silhouettes indicating the size of different species.

Penguin line-up, from right to left: Korora, Platydyptes, Archaeospheniscus, Palaeeudyptes, and Pachydyptes. For scale, that’s me next to Pachydyptes.

This motley line-up helps bring to life the idea of an ancient penguin fauna, where these birds made up a bigger part of the ecosystem than today. In late Paleogene and early Neogene marine communities in New Zealand, there were a great variety of penguin species spanning large size ranges.  In these ancient times, the largest giant penguins may have played the role of sea lions, big penguins that of seals, and small penguins that of, well, penguins. Certainly there was room for different prey specialization between titans like Pachydyptes and small fellows like Korora.

Written by Dan Ksepka

December 20, 2011 at 12:10 am

Posted in Uncategorized

One Response

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  1. Imagine running into one of the Pachydyptes today… I’ve been working on an evolution project and i gotta say that this stuff is fascinating! I mean I knew penguins were cool but not this cool:) Thanks for posting about your research, it’s been a great help.

    Alyssa W.

    October 22, 2012 at 7:27 pm

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