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Nearly complete fossil of giant penguin found in Peru

Researchers believe that further research might provide answers on how penguins’ feathers evolved.

Researchers recently revealed that while excavating a site in Reserva Nacional de Paracas in Peru they have discovered nearly complete fossil of a giant penguin that lived some 36 million years ago.

The team of researchers nicknamed the 5-foot, 120-pound penguin fossil “Pedro” and later officially named the species that inhibited the planet during the late Eocene period “Inkayacu paracasensis” or Water King.

The research revealed that the penguin was almost twice as heavy as Emperor penguin species of present, and its feathers may have been brown and gray in color, quite distinct from black and white “tuxedo” look penguins sport these days.

Commenting on this new amazing discovery, lead-study author and paleontologist at the University of Texas, U.S. Dr. Julia Clarke stated, "Before this fossil, we had no evidence about the feathers, colors and flipper shapes of ancient penguins. We had questions and this was our first chance to start answering them."

Clarke added Inkayacu species had straight long beak that was much longer than its modern day successors.

More on Inkayacu
Clarke also revealed that they were quite surprised to find a near complete fossil.

At first they were apprehensive about the discovery, however all their doubts were laid to rest after thoroughly examining the specimen in the lab.

"I turned over a flake of rock right near one of the wing elements, and right there was our first evidence of feathering. The plumage of these animals was in a very different palette of what we see in living penguins today," said Clarke.

To find out more about the color of feathers of this new species, researchers studied the shape of fossil’s melanosomes, pigment cells that helps provide color for bird feathers. The lab test showed that ancient species feathers might have been reddish-brown and gray in appearance.

Strangely, this ancient penguin species melanosomes turned out to be quite different from that of modern day penguins.

The study researchers believe these cells might have evolved later, making feathers more resistant to wear and tear while swimming underwater.

The soft tissue found on fossil was not enough to determine the color of the new penguin species

The researchers are sure that the fossil found “was a fully grown adult, not a juvenile.”

Important study
Researchers believe that further research (with some help from this new study) might provide answers on how penguins’ feathers evolved.

The research revealed that the penguin was almost twice as heavy as Emperor penguin species of present, and its feathers may have been brown and gray in color, quite distinct from black and white “tuxedo” look penguins sport these days.

“It's a pretty major transition to go from aerial flight to aquatic flight, to flying in a medium that's around 800 times denser than air. I think there will be more to the story of this penguin's feathering," concluded Clarke.

The research findings were published in the journal 'Science' earlier this month.