Prehistoric penguins were 5 feet tall

June 25, 2007 at 3:40 PM
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RALEIGH, N.C., June 25 (UPI) -- Paleontologists have found the fossils of two previously unknown penguin species in Peru that grew to about 5 feet in height.

North Carolina State University Assistant Professor Julia Clarke and her Peruvian and Argentine collaborators have shown the two species reached equatorial regions tens of millions of years earlier than expected and during a period when the Earth was much warmer than it is now.

The fossils were discovered by Peruvian paleontologists in 2005.

The first of the species, Icadyptes salasi, stood 5 feet tall and lived about 36 million years ago. The second species, Perudyptes devriesi, lived about 42 million years ago, and was approximately the same size as a living King Penguin -- up to 3 feet in height. Both of the species lived on the southern coast of Peru.

Clark said the penguin fossils are among the most complete yet recovered and call into question hypotheses about the timing and pattern of penguin evolution and expansion.

The research appears online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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