By Scott A. Rowan
Waimanu, the oldest known penguin
In January 2017, New Zealand and German researchers unveiled the fossils of the oldest known penguin that dated back to the Paleocene era, more than 60 million years ago. The find has altered what scientists thought about the evolution of the penguin. Based on their findings, a team of researchers now are working on a theory that penguins began evolving during the age of dinosaurs, making penguins and alligators some of the oldest species on earth.
Found along the Waipara River in New Zealand’s Canterbury region, the fossils of Waimanu manneringi were found embedded in sand. What is striking about the find is that the fossils were deposited just 4 million years after the extinction of the dinosaurs.
The extent of evolutionary development revealed in the Waimanu penguin is proof, researchers believe, that penguins were much more highly developed during the age of dinosaurs than anyone previously thought. Standing roughly 5 feet tall (1.5 m), the Waimanu penguin would be larger than the current largest living penguin, the Emperor Penguin, who stands just under 4 feet at 44 inches (112 cm).
Penguins have long been considered serious predators during prehistoric ages by a small group of researchers. Those scientists even believe that the ancient penguin was a prehistoric predator that hunted on land and in the water.
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