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.
Paul K. Mueller | NC State University
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