Thursday, Dec. 09, 2010

Five-Foot Penguin

Not every cool, newly discovered species is still out there eating, breeding and raising young. Case in point: the fossil of a giant penguin that lived 36 million years ago in what is now Peru. With samples of both feathers and flippers preserved with the bones the remains offered researchers rare clues to the color and plumage of the earliest penguins. Their conclusions: the extinct birds were nowhere near the fancy dressers their modern-day descendants are, coming mostly in a standard reddish-brown or gray. But what the penguin ancestors lacked in style they made up in size, standing twice the height of today's pipsqueak Emperor penguin.