You guys seen my pal Jaws? Here to cheer those gloomy about global
warming is an artists conception of the shape of things to come again ,if, after a 25 million year hiatus, climate change brings big birds in black tie back into evolutionary style.
Newly discovered as Eocene fossils in Peru, five foot tall Icadyptes salasi, and Emperor-sized Perudyptes devriesi are shown to scale with the diminutive Humboldt penguin, Spheniscus humbolti,which lives in Peru today. Icadyptes bucks a Paleontological fashion trend-- that species moving from cold to warm climates tend to grow smaller as balmy temperatures eliminate the need to conserve heat. The giant may instead have stayed hefty to hunt in waters cold as today's Humboldt Current.
Though Icadyptes scary beak might make for a fair fight with Humboldt squid, it could also turn the poor Humboldt penguin into an endangered hors d'oeuvre.
The tallest known fossil penguin Anthropornis nordenskjoeldi, which used to chill out on Seymour Island in Antarctica, stood five feet seven inches, while New Zealand's strapping Pachydyptes ponderosus, though slightly shorter, was heavy as an adult human male. Read more online in a paper by Jullia Clark et al. in this weeks Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.