Friday, November 30, 2012

Icadyptes salasi

Icadyptes salasi
Penguins are weird and interesting. Seabirds who swim better than they can fly.. or even walk? Well if the modern, waddling Penguins are so unique among birds, just take a look at some of their ancestors. Thankfully, the Penguins odd flightless bodies have been a huge help in studying them-- their bones are thicker and their fossils have survived quite well.

Icadyptes salasi is a Penguin ancestor that lived 36 millions years ago. Its fossils were uncovered in Peru, which is notable because Peru at that time was just as close to the Equator as it is now, and was even warmer in temperature. Today there are very few Penguins that live that far north, and they are much smaller in size.

Oh, have I not mentioned how large Icadyptes was yet? 5ft (1.5). That's one tall Penguin, taller than the largest modern Penguin-- the Emperor. Interestingly, it is only the third largest Penguin ever discovered. Icadyptes also had an incredibly long, spear-like beak that made up about 2.3 of their head length. These beaks were spears that could be used to catch prey.

The presence of this species in such a warm climate has causes researchers to revise the Penguin timeline. It was previously believed that the birds only spread north around 10 million years ago.

Status : Extinct for 36 million years
Location : South America
Size : Height up to 5ft (1.5m)
Classification : Phylum : Chordata -- Class : Aves -- Order : Sphenisciformes
Family : Spheniscidae -- Genus : †Icadyptes -- Species : †I. salasi

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