A bunch of paleontologists, one with Massey College, two with the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa and the fourth from the Bruce Museum, has discovered the fossilized stays of the oldest recognized extinct little penguin. Of their paper printed within the Journal of Paleontology, the group describes the place and the way the fossils have been discovered and the way the little birds slot in with trendy little penguins.
The 2 fossilized skulls have been discovered by the staff within the southern Taranaki area of New Zealand’s North Island, within the Tangahoe Formation. Testing confirmed each have been of the identical historical species and have been the primary of their variety to be discovered. The staff named them Eudyptula wilsonae, which interprets to Wilson’s little penguin. One of many skulls was from an grownup, whereas the opposite was from a juvenile. Each have been in ok situation to permit for comparability with trendy little penguins (kororā), the smallest extant species of penguin.
The analysis staff admits that they weren’t capable of say for certain how huge the traditional species may need been, however by evaluating to their trendy ancestors, they guess they have been possible roughly 35 centimeters tall and certain weighed slightly below a kilogram.
In trendy occasions, a number of species of little penguins reside in Australia, New Zealand and Tasmania. Little work has been finished, nonetheless, to hint their lineage. So it isn’t recognized if the newly discovered species is a direct descendant. Attributable to their similarities, the analysis staff suspects they possible are.
Additionally they counsel it’s a testomony to the exceptional potential of the birds to adapt to a altering world with out having to endure a lot change themselves—the atmosphere round them has modified dramatically over time, the staff notes. Additionally, trendy little penguins now occupy the broadest vary of territory of any penguin.
The newly discovered species, they observe, was alive roughly 3 million years in the past and dispersed over the course of the Pleistocene—the discover additionally confirms the little penguins have been alive throughout the Neogen interval. The analysis staff means that their discover additionally exhibits a Zealandian origin for little penguins on the whole.
Daniel B. Thomas et al, Pliocene fossils assist a New Zealand origin for the smallest extant penguins, Journal of Paleontology (2023). DOI: 10.1017/jpa.2023.30
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Oldest recognized extinct little penguin fossil cranium present in New Zealand (2023, July 7)
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