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Top 4 Facts about the Water King Penguin: A Prehistoric Penguin

Angela, an animal lover, has a passion for learning and understanding God's creatures. As a born teacher, she enjoys sharing her knowledge.

1. Larger than the Emperor Penguin

The largest penguin alive today is the Emperor Penguin. Up until 2010, they were believed to be the largest penguins to have ever walked this earth. Recently, scientists have uncovered a new species of penguin that is twice the size of an Emperor Penguin and stood 5 feet tall! They have been dubbed the Water King Penguin, not to be confused with the King Penguin, which is still alive today.

The Water King Penguin, known to the scientific world as Inkayacu Paracasensis, was discovered in Peru and believed to have lived during prehistoric times. When they uncovered fossilized feathers, a rare discovery revealed that this magnificent creature was a mix of reddish-brown and gray. It was through research of these prehistoric penguins that scientists learned more about modern penguins.

The emperor penguin is currently the largest living penguin today.

The emperor penguin is currently the largest living penguin today.

2. Discovered in Peru

This ancient penguin was initially discovered in a desert in Peru in 2007. Although it took until 2010 to report the findings, it was an accidental discovery of a student of the Museo de Historia Natural in Lima (Museum of Natural History). Imagine the great joy of this student as he unearths a mystery before he has even become a full-fledged paleontologist: a dream come true! His original discovery was of a foot of the bird that had scales. Preserved scales are a rare and magnificent find!

There were two other giant penguins also discovered in this same area, although the King Water Penguin was by far the largest measuring the same height as many adult humans at five feet. The Emperor Penguin measures only 4 feet.
It is not the size of the Water King Penguin that captured so many scientists' attention, but how well preserved the findings were, they found intriguing. Preserved at the bottom of the feet were both feathers and scales within the fossil collections.

King Penguin

A King Penguin, not to be confused with the prehistoric Water King Penguin. Note it's tuxedo like appearance that the Water King Penguin would not have shared.

A King Penguin, not to be confused with the prehistoric Water King Penguin. Note it's tuxedo like appearance that the Water King Penguin would not have shared.

3. Are Excellent Swimmers

Aside from the unique color of the fossilized feathers, scientists discovered some other fascinating information about how penguins became such great swimmers. They not only were able to uncover feathers from the flipper, but also the body. One excavator was fortunate enough to find a fossilized flipper that had both types of feathers attached.

At first glance, the feathers appeared to be just like the feathers of today's penguins. Today's penguins have flipper feathers that are densely stacked that allow the fin to be stiff, which will enable it to move very quickly through the water, changing directions and maneuvering very easily. Although the water king penguin feathers were structurally the same, the composition of the feather's DNA was different. More specifically, the makeup of it that usually pertains more to color than to the ability of the feather that allows the birds to be such excellent swimmers.

Penguin Feather

A penguin feather, this one is from a Rock Hopper Penguin have a large shaft and lots of down to keep the penguin warm

A penguin feather, this one is from a Rock Hopper Penguin have a large shaft and lots of down to keep the penguin warm

4. They Were Reddish-Brown

Some may wonder how they were able to determine the color of the water penguin. Aren't all fossils gray? Well, yes, but they were able to discover the color of the water king's feathers due to traces of melanosomes found in fossils. For instance, our skin has melanin, so if you have ever heard, there are many colors of humans, black, white, red, well, that's not true. We are all the same color, and that is melanin, it's just some of us have an abundance of melanin and have very dark skin, whereas pasty folks like myself, lack melanin. Well, melanosomes can determine what color the fossil would have been. By comparing the melanosomes in many different creatures, they earned that the King Water penguin had a mix of reddish-brown and gray feathers.

Although this in and of itself does not seem particularly unusual, it's the way these melanosomes presented themselves in the DNA of the King Water feather. The dark black tuxedo look of modern penguins has more to do with swimming prowess than sex or camouflage as previously believed. Penguin's melanosomes usually are grape-like, whereas most other birds melanosomes are not. The King Water penguin's melanosomes were more like that of other birds. Now you may wonder how this would pertain to its ability to swim, but it's quite related.

Melanin, the coloring product found in melanosomes, helps protect the feather from breakage. Those of modern penguins had more grape-like melanin. Therefore, they were less likely to break than those of the King Water Penguin and other birds. The ease at which it broke may have caused the demise of the King Water Penguin since it was not as adept at swimming, or as many scientists believe, the King Water Penguin's feathers began to evolve to allow for better swimming producing the modern penguin.

© 2010 Angela Michelle Schultz

Comments

halli bailey on August 15, 2012:

check out the king water penguin

yusydancer on November 19, 2011:

cool

Cashbackshopper on September 05, 2011:

Nice Presentation.

Angela Michelle Schultz (author) from United States on July 10, 2011:

I find them very fascinating! I loved the movie, March of the Penguins.

andrebreynolds on July 05, 2011:

Whenever I see penguins, they are always as cute as babies. Awesome hub! I love reading hubs about penguins.

Lyn.Stewart from Auckland, New Zealand on June 24, 2011:

Thank you for this wonderful hub ... Now I know something new ... yay 4 me

Angela Michelle Schultz (author) from United States on October 21, 2010:

I wonder if it is as delightful as it sounds. Interesting, that is for sure. :)

Garnetbird on October 21, 2010:

Delightful animal! Well-written Hub!

Angela Michelle Schultz (author) from United States on October 13, 2010:

Thank you so much Dallas!!! I appreciate your comment.

Dallas W Thompson from Bakersfield, CA on October 12, 2010:

Good topic presented in easy readable manner. Thanks for sharing.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on October 11, 2010:

What a very interesting hub. I never though of seeing a penguin that size and all the details were fascinating.

Angela Michelle Schultz (author) from United States on October 11, 2010:

Thank you mentalist for that great compliment. You know me and my love for research!

Angela Michelle Schultz (author) from United States on October 11, 2010:

LOL, I actually am not a big fan of astronomy, only because it was the only test I ever failed. LOL. Big fan of Peanut butter cookies though!!!

Mentalist acer from A Voice in your Mind! on October 11, 2010:

Your detail of all aspects of the Penquin feathers,were exquisite Angela;)

surlyoldcat on October 11, 2010:

Well, there are some aspects that would make having a family very difficult. There are aspects where having a family would curtail your work. It all evens out. Being an armchair scientist has it's merits, and you don't have to worry about vicious beasties or angry locals making life heck.

I would have gone into astronomy as that is my first love...well my first love is peanut butter cookies, but, well, you get the drift.

Angela Michelle Schultz (author) from United States on October 11, 2010:

Oh my goodness! I have met the male version of me. I bet we could talk for hours. I love dinosaurs, prehistoric stuff, and oh my goodness, if I didn't want a family I would have been a paleontologist. I just didn't think I could devote myself fully to both passions!

surlyoldcat on October 11, 2010:

WAY COOL!

I love science, especially prehistoric lineages and animals (yeah I was a dinosaur freak as a kid) amongst other disciplines. Reading about things like this hold a lot of interest. It's like reading about the real sabretooth cats discovery from back in 2006 (or 2007.)

Well done and written.