Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Penguin Bones from “Land of Fire” Rewrite Bird’s Evolution

13.02.2004


Fossilized bones found in Tierra del Fuego, Argentina, are likely those of the earliest known South American penguin, which probably lived 20 million years earlier than scientists had supposed. The new find doubles the known fossil record of penguins in South America.


Fossilized penguin bones found in Tierra del Fuego are the oldest ever found in South America
Credi: NC State University



That’s the conclusion of Dr. Julia A. Clarke, assistant professor of marine, earth and atmospheric sciences at North Carolina State University, and her colleagues from Argentina, who published their findings in the December 2003 issue of the journal Novitates of the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH).

According to Clarke, the specimen consists of parts of a pelvic girdle and a leg and dates to the Eocene epoch of Earth’s history – about 40 million years ago – sometimes called the “early age of mammals.” Found at Punta Torcida on Tierra del Fuego’s Atlantic coast, the fossilized bones are sufficiently different from known penguin anatomy to rewrite the story of penguin evolution.


Tierra del Fuego, the southernmost portion of the South American continent, means “land of fire” in English. Argentinean geologist Eduardo B. Olivero’s team discovered the fossils in 1999, and Olivero asked Clarke to help identify the bones.

“This early part of the penguin lineage must have arrived in South America during a comparatively warm period in Earth’s history,” said Clarke, “coincident with the beginning of, or just before, a major global cooling trend that occurred in the mid-Eocene. All other penguin fossils date to long after that ‘icehouse’ phase began and after the Antarctic icecap is inferred present.”

The new find may tell a radically different story from previous discoveries about penguins and their prehistoric travels. Despite the popular association of penguins with cold polar regions, said Clarke, species of the birds live near the equators as well. The earliest penguins, then, might have developed in warmer climates, and slowly adapted as their habitats grew icier.

The scientists found portions of a pelvis, a nearly complete right femur, a fragment of the left femur and other bones. Details of the bones, and a careful comparison of them to both fossil and modern penguin bones, allowed them to unravel the evolutionary relationships of the new fossil.

Clarke says that a larger, more comprehensive study of the penguin family tree is necessary before the full story of early penguins in the Land of Fire can be told. But she’s confident that the discovery will help clarify the timing and pattern of penguin diversification.

“This is the first vertebrate from that distant epoch ever found in Tierra del Fuego,” she says. “As modest as these fossilized bones are, they’ll tell us a great deal about the morphological evolution of penguins and the travels of these birds some 40 million years ago on a very different planet Earth.”

Paul K. Mueller | NC State University
Further information:
http://www.ncsu.edu/news/press_releases/04_02/049.htm

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht Mars’ atmosphere well protected from the solar wind
08.12.2017 | Schwedischer Forschungsrat - The Swedish Research Council

nachricht Study reveals significant role of dust in mountain ecosystems
07.12.2017 | University of Wyoming

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Towards data storage at the single molecule level

The miniaturization of the current technology of storage media is hindered by fundamental limits of quantum mechanics. A new approach consists in using so-called spin-crossover molecules as the smallest possible storage unit. Similar to normal hard drives, these special molecules can save information via their magnetic state. A research team from Kiel University has now managed to successfully place a new class of spin-crossover molecules onto a surface and to improve the molecule’s storage capacity. The storage density of conventional hard drives could therefore theoretically be increased by more than one hundred fold. The study has been published in the scientific journal Nano Letters.

Over the past few years, the building blocks of storage media have gotten ever smaller. But further miniaturization of the current technology is hindered by...

Im Focus: Successful Mechanical Testing of Nanowires

With innovative experiments, researchers at the Helmholtz-Zentrums Geesthacht and the Technical University Hamburg unravel why tiny metallic structures are extremely strong

Light-weight and simultaneously strong – porous metallic nanomaterials promise interesting applications as, for instance, for future aeroplanes with enhanced...

Im Focus: Virtual Reality for Bacteria

An interdisciplinary group of researchers interfaced individual bacteria with a computer to build a hybrid bio-digital circuit - Study published in Nature Communications

Scientists at the Institute of Science and Technology Austria (IST Austria) have managed to control the behavior of individual bacteria by connecting them to a...

Im Focus: A space-time sensor for light-matter interactions

Physicists in the Laboratory for Attosecond Physics (run jointly by LMU Munich and the Max Planck Institute for Quantum Optics) have developed an attosecond electron microscope that allows them to visualize the dispersion of light in time and space, and observe the motions of electrons in atoms.

The most basic of all physical interactions in nature is that between light and matter. This interaction takes place in attosecond times (i.e. billionths of a...

Im Focus: A transistor of graphene nanoribbons

Transistors based on carbon nanostructures: what sounds like a futuristic dream could be reality in just a few years' time. An international research team working with Empa has now succeeded in producing nanotransistors from graphene ribbons that are only a few atoms wide, as reported in the current issue of the trade journal "Nature Communications."

Graphene ribbons that are only a few atoms wide, so-called graphene nanoribbons, have special electrical properties that make them promising candidates for the...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

AKL’18: The opportunities and challenges of digitalization in the laser industry

07.12.2017 | Event News

Blockchain is becoming more important in the energy market

05.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Making fuel out of thick air

08.12.2017 | Life Sciences

Rules for superconductivity mirrored in 'excitonic insulator'

08.12.2017 | Information Technology

Smartphone case offers blood glucose monitoring on the go

08.12.2017 | Information Technology

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>