Skip to comments.Penguins survived when dinosaurs died
Posted on 04/09/2006 10:31:04 AM PDT by Lessismore
New analysis of the world's oldest fossil penguins confirms some birds survived the mass extinction that killed the dinosaurs 65 million years ago, researchers say.
The penguins once lived in shallow seas off New Zealand's east coast 60 million years ago.
Now a molecular study, published in the journal Molecular Biology and Evolution, links them closely to modern penguins.
Co-author Associate Professor Ewan Fordyce from the University of Otago says penguins are specialised birds that evolved much later than other species.
"The fact that they have been found within a few million years of the dinosaurs' extinction is compelling evidence that modern birds must have evolved earlier and diversified during the time of the dinosaurs," he said.
"It also suggests that many of those bird lineages survived the catastrophe that wiped out the dinosaurs, so it's unlikely that there was a big turnover, with modern birds only emerging after the mass extinction."
The study incorporates genetic evidence of the evolutionary relationships between penguins' distant cousins like shearwaters, albatrosses, ducks and moas.
The researchers used DNA from these birds to provide a broad framework of family relationships which, together with the fossil evidence, is used to predict when those birds must have arisen.
"We're really confident we have ancient birds and really confident about the date," says Professor Fordyce.
"It's enabled us to establish an earlier timeframe for when groups of modern birds branched out."
Most of the New Zealand fossils, officially recognised as the Waimanu penguin genus, were discovered by amateur palaeontologist Al Mannering in the Waipara region just north of Christchurch.
Some 60 million years ago New Zealand had already separated from Australia and Antarctica and was a low-lying land mass much closer to the South Pole.
Waimanu manneringi would have developed in a polar habitat similar to today's yellow-eyed penguin, which it closely resembles.
Its long bill and condensed wing bones indicate that it would be quite at home eating and swimming in today's Antarctica, the researchers say.
Sorry, I couldn't help myself...
Oh, Oh! H.P. Lovecraft, Mountains of Madness, Ping List.
Piranha Penguins of Doom bump!
Good book, but that dealt with ruins that were 250,000 years old, not 65 million year old.
Funny that that the longest lasting large animals on Earth are gators and penguins.
There's got to be a cosmic joke somewhere about this.
"Pengoo-ins is practickly chickens..."
Actually the insects are the oldest-now the cockroaches, they're a cosmic joke!
Sometimes it's good to be the penguin.
I was talking about large animales, not small insects.
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