Penguin fossils discovered in South America
Picture this: A giant penguin with a long, peculiar beak, lounging in the warm sun.I'm pleased to see this quote from Clarke, as I agree with her opinion:
It could be a promotion for the next animated Hollywood movie.
But this big bird is the real thing, its recently discovered fossils providing researchers with several scientific oddities. Not only are the birds extra large by modern standards, they thrived in one of the warmest periods in the past 65 million years.
"We have this ingrained notion of a penguin on an iceberg in a cool sea. But for most of their long history, penguins were in situations of no ice, with maybe crocodiles near them," said Julia Clarke, assistant professor of marine, earth and atmospheric sciences at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, North Carolina.
Clarke, who studies the biodiversity of living birds, and colleagues in Peru and Argentina have described two species of extinct penguins that lived tens of millions of years ago. It was during a time when Earth was a lot warmer than it is today. The fossils were found in Peru in 2005.
So what does a vertebrate paleontologist think about all the attention penguins are now getting with pop culture hits like "March of the Penguins" and "Happy Feet"?
"Anytime people are motivated to engage and become emotionally connected to the natural world is a good thing for conservation concerns," said Clarke.