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Very new I and the Bird and very old birds

October 1, 2010
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Brand new I and the Bird #135 is up at The Birder’s Report.

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I apologize for the lack of an exciting post on this Friday.  I’ve been busy and such, like people are wont to do from time to time, and didn’t have time to put one together.  Next week, things will be better and I’ll have a whole week of exciting posts, more or less, but not today.  Sorry.

But perhaps I can tide you over with a story about a giant penguin.  Yes?

Archeologists in Peru have recently found the remains of a seven foot tall fossil penguin* that must have struck fear in the heart of all that swam in prehistoric coastal South America.  This bird, named Inkayacu paracasensis,, was even larger than the five foot tall penguin, Icadyptes salasi, that was found in the same area three years ago, which begs the obvious question, what the hell was going on in Eocene Peru that selected for giant penguins, but also, why can’t we have awesome penguins like this now?  I’m so tired of Emperor Penguins anyway, only four feet tall and always reminding me of the tyranny of a dictatorial monarchy.  Didn’t we fight a war in 1776 to free ourselves from those jerks?

*The article has now been edited to say the bird was twice as heavy as Emperor Penguin, rather than twice as big, standing at only 5 ft rather than 7.

Even more interesting is the fact that this species’ size may be the least bizarre thing about it.  Not only was Inkayacu a giant, but it also lacked the distinctive pattern that we associate with penguins all over the word. Researchers were able to examine melanosomes, microscopic structures in the fossil, that gave an idea as to the actual colors of the bird. Instead of the classic black back and white front, the back was gray, much like the large penguin species today, Emperor and King, but the front wasn’t white, it was brown, leaving a bird that looked like nothing so much as a Shepard Fairey-ized version of modern penguins.  Truly a strange bird.

There’s enough we don’t know about modern extant birds without getting into the additional and equally fascinating subject of prehistoric ones, but the odd digression is fun from time to time.  Especially with a family as charismatic as penguins.

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3 Comments
  1. October 1, 2010 7:40 am

    I, for one, bow down to our new penguin overlords. Unless, that is, Batman shows up to save us from them…

  2. October 2, 2010 2:51 pm

    “Penguins is practically chickens” Thanks for sharing.

  3. Nate permalink*
    October 4, 2010 10:04 am

    @Corey- Batman if we’re lucky.

    @Bob- Indeed! And he would know right?

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