Giant Penguin Fossils Found in Peruvian Desert

Spearfishing birds waddled the earth 36 million years ago
By Colleen Barry,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 26, 2007 4:54 AM CDT
A Gentoo penguin, left, brings a rock to his nesting mate as the "battle of rocks" begins at the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, Wednesday, April 11, 2007. The week long "battle" begins when marine mammal...   (Associated Press)
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(Newser) – Penguins haven't always lived on ice, scientists have concluded after unearthing fossils of giant penguins in Peru's Atacama desert. The penguins, nearly human-sized at 4.5 feet tall, had extraordinarily long beaks apparently used for spearfishing, and waddled the earth some 36 million years ago, the National Geographic News reports.

A second new species of penguin, dating 42 million years ago, has also been discovered in the same area, standing about 3 feet tall—the size of modern-day king penguins, the second-largest surviving breed. While the discoveries challenge conventional wisdom about penguins' climate adaptability, scientists cautioned that modern birds remain extremely vulnerable to global warming.