New Zealand paleontologists have discovered the remains of an ancient crested penguin, which lived over three million years ago. Adding data about this kind of in the pedigree of all the penguins, researchers have found new evidence that the common ancestor of the squad lived in New Zealand. Here we have a genus of crested penguins, which then widely spread across the sub-Antarctic. Detailed description of a new species published in this paper for the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
New Zealand — a Paradise for numerous sea birds. Only penguins nesting here seven species. About 20 are known from fossil deposits — and this is clearly not the final figure as many findings still await their description. The study of ancient penguins not only sheds light on the evolution of this group, but also allows us to understand how New Zealand became a world center of diversity of seabirds.
A team of paleontologists led by Daniel Thomas (Daniel B. Thomas) from Massey University researched age of penguin remains a 3.36–3,06 million years that was discovered on the North island of New Zealand. It turned out that they belong to an unknown to science species. The researchers attributed it to the genus of crested penguins (Eudyptes), which includes seven modern and one recently extinct species. A new species is the oldest known representative of its genus in New Zealand, so he got the name Eudyptes atatu (translated from the Maori language its specific epithet means “dawn”).
The researchers calculated that the body length of E. atatu reached about 65 cm, and it weighed five kilograms. This corresponds to the size of a large crested penguin (Eudyptes sclateri), which inhabits the Islands South of the main archipelago of New Zealand. From the modern species E. atatu different from the details of the structure of the limbs and skull. For example, his beak was thinner than the modern crested penguins and more like a great beak of a penguin (Megadyptes antipodes). Probably have common ancestors and great crested penguins beaks were fine, but the latter gradually acquired a greater thickness.