Prehistoric penguin gives new color clues

by Anonymous on Oct. 01st, 2010

The fossil remains of a giant five-foot penguin has been unearthed in Paracas National Reserve, a desert region along the coast of Peru. The new species, named Inkayacu paracasensisI (water king), grew to a size nearly twice as large as the modern day Emperor penguin. The nearly complete fossil even skeleton included flippers and feathers. Some color of a bird's feathers can be deduced by the size of the melanosomes in its structure and by their shape and arrangement. When Inkayacu's melanosomes were compared with those of modern day birds, the nanostructures indicated that the giant penguin's feathers were reddish brown in color.

"Before this fossil, we had no evidence about the feathers, colors and flipper shapes of ancient penguins," said paleontologist Julia Clarke, of the University of Texas, and lead author of the report that appears in Science. The new evidence brings up new questions. For example, Clarke and her team aren't sure when or why the feather colors of most modern penguins shifted to black and white. I. paracenensis lived during the Eocene epoch 36 million years ago, and its fossil has been nicknamed Pedro.

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Color in fossil feathers

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