Ancient Penguin Resembles Today’s Species, A New Study Revealed

A doctoral applicant from Flinders University did something quite peculiar, yet intriguing. He discovered a fossil of an ancient penguin that shows a few similarities to some present living species.

The fossil belongs to a penguin resembling very much with the species from the Southern Hemisphere waters. Jaco Blokland, a graduate of the University of Canterbury, discovered proof of the penguins, which have been dubbed Kupoupou Stilwell after it had been examined.

The fossils had been found in the Chatham Islands in the southern Pacific close to New Zealand’s South Island.

When the species of the penguins lived somewhere between 62.5 million and 60 million years ago, there was no sign of ice cap at the South Pole, and the waters close to New Zealand were sub-tropical or even tropical. Blokland detailed that Kupoupou had small dimensions, much smaller than the so-called massive penguin, Crossvallia waiparensis.

New Study Revealed That Ancient Penguin Species Resemble The Present-Day Ones

“Kupoupou was comparatively small – no bigger than modern King Penguins, which stand just under 1.1 meters tall,” explained Blokland. The new species is based on the fossilized bones of five incomplete skeletons.

Moreover, Blokland said that the species had significantly shorter legs than some other fossil penguins, resembling more the penguins today. He added, “This penguin is the first that has modern proportions both in terms of its size and in its hind limb and foot bones (the tarsometatarsus) or foot shape.”

Paul Scofield, senior curator of Natural History at the Canterbury Museum, was also examined the fossils, alongside Associate Professor Catherine Reid, and Trevor Worthy, Flinders paleontologist. Scofield released a statement about the importance of the discovery.

He detailed: “We think it’s likely that the ancestors of penguins diverged from the lineage leading to their closest living relatives – such as albatross and petrels – during the Late Cretaceous period, and then many different species sprang up after the dinosaurs were wiped out.” The ancient penguin species’ name is after Associate Professor Stilwell with all exemplars now cared for by Te Papa.