Pharyngula

Waimanu

i-6dba866b0ea8d93028c14034679bfd60-waimanu_tease.jpg

We haven’t had enough fossil penguins here, so let me rectify that deficiency. Below the fold you’ll find a reconstruction of Waimanu, a 61-62 million year old penguin that was discovered in New Zealand.

Oh, and Carl Zimmer has posted a photo of the bird with its skin and feathers on.



i-f1cdf2d13781a91c89e9a9770eee8d25-waimanu.jpg
Reconstruction of Waimanu (composite of W. manneringi and W. tuatahi, based on original art
by Chris Gaskin ©Geology Museum, University of Otago). ca, caudal vertebrae; ce, cervical
vertebrae; cm, carpometacarpus; cr, coracoid; fb, fibula; fe, femur; fu, furcula; hu, humerus; sk,
skull, md, mandible; oc, os coaxae; ra, radius; sc, scapula; sy, synsacrum; ti, tibiotarsus; tm,
tarsometartarsus; ul, ulna. In the wing, the dorsal view (left ulna, radius, carpometacarpus) and
ventral view (humerus) are combined.

This penguin-like bird is strongly adapted for wing-propelled diving, and it appears in the fossil record only 3-4 million years after the K/T boundary. Either it was remarkable precocious, or as the authors favor, the radiation of modern birds occurred well before the extinction of the dinosaurs. They estimate that the neornithine radiation began 90-100 million years ago, in the late Cretaceous. The end of the Cretaceous must have been an interesting time in the skies—the archaic bird groups, the modern neornithines, and the pterosaurs all overlapped in time, and shared many of the same environments.

i-cf4ca5fa9059b996e44e8b1f969bab0d-waimanu_phylo.gif
click for larger image

Fossil record and phylogeny of ornithurine birds with the stratigraphy of Waipara region and
geological settings for Waimanu. Solid line shows geological ranges of taxa with first and last
occurrences shown by squares. Dashed line shows postulated phylogeny compiled from literature. Grey circles indicate possible initial divergence times for
clades; known fossils (squares) show constraints on ages. Early divergences within the Carinatae
could be older, and we have conservatively placed them later in the Cretaceous to give only one
long ghost-lineage between Ambiortus and the early Carinatae. The placement of Waimanu within
Sphenisciformes is evaluated by the cladistic analysis described in the text; see also Supplementary
Information Figure 4. TH, Thanetian; SE, Selandian; DA, Danian; MA, Maastrichtian; CA,
Campanian, SA; Santonian, CO, Coniacian; TU, Turonian; CE, Cenomanican; AL, Albian; AP,
Aptian; BA, Barremian; HA, Hauterivian; VA, Valanginian; BE, Berriasian.

Slack KE, Jones CM, Ando T, Harrison GL, Fordyce RE, Arnason U, Penny D (2006) Early Penguin Fossils, plus Mitochondrial Genomes, Calibrate Avian Evolution. Mol Biol Evo, preprint in advance of publication.

Comments

  1. #1 Dustin
    March 18, 2006

    We haven’t had enough fossil penguins here

    Pfft. That’s a tautology. You can never have enough fossilized penguins.

    In an unrelated note, you were looking for some good analysis of Dembski. While I was trying to track down a precise statement of Dembski’s NFL and Conservation of Information, I stumbled across this:
    http://talkreason.org/articles/dembski_LCI.pdf
    The author seems to struggle from the same problem I’ve been having — Dembski won’t make anything precise enough to be analyzed, so he’ll probably just shrug critiques like that one off as putting words in his mouth. I haven’t given the paper a rigorous once over yet, but I also haven’t found any flagrant errors or misrepresentations.

  2. #2 coturnix
    March 18, 2006

    Wish this came out a week earlier – it would have been a nice (yet unusual) addition to I And The Bird…

  3. #3 S.J. Redman
    March 18, 2006

    Great post, you’re right, you can never have enough penguins. Unless of course, you are trying to make an argument against same sex marriages. Whoops. Did my liberal slip out? Sorry, it does that.

  4. #4 Corkscrew
    March 18, 2006

    So penguins have been evolving for at least 60 million years now. Ah, but are they really ready for the desktop?

    (And if anyone has no clue what I’m talking about: the line “Linux isn’t ready for the desktop” is approximately equivalent to “evolution is just a theory”)

  5. #5 apikoros
    March 18, 2006

    Just a quick guess, but what say you to the cold-weather adaptations like a penguin’s be favored under the “different rules” applicable during the K/T winter?

  6. #6 the amazing kim
    March 19, 2006

    the radiation of modern birds occurred well before the extinction of the dinosaurs

    Well that solves both the bird flu crisis and the peak oil crisis.
    We’ll just use infected chickens instead of uranium. The question is, do they have to be enriched, say with a zesty marinade?

  7. #7 Milo Johnson
    March 19, 2006

    Right af – ter the K/T
    Tennessee Tuxedo!

  8. #8 J. Broadsly
    March 19, 2006

    Sorry to change the subject. But since there are many scientists who are smarter than me commenting on this site, I hope you can set me straight: I was watching BBC’s Walking with Monsters with my kids, and the narrator stated as confirmed event that a planet called Thea impacted Earth before life appeared, and merged with it and created the moon too. I’ve never heard of such a thing. I checked the web and can’t find any confirmation.

  9. #9 John Marley
    March 19, 2006

    J. Broadsly:

    I don’t know anyting about the name “Thea,” but

    here is a link to that theory

  10. #10 AJ Milne
    March 19, 2006

    –Well, then, evolutionarily speaking I guess that makes you nothing more than a…fat seagull in a tuxedo!

    –Don’t laugh, O balding monkey.

    –May I beg the court for a headwind?

    (Mandatory topical Berke Breathed excerpts.)

  11. #11 DW
    March 19, 2006

    Back to the penguins:

    Were these birds always adapted to high lattitudes? Or did they once have a wider range that got pushed south by seals and the likes?

  12. #12 John
    March 19, 2006

    There is no theory of evolution. Just a list of animals Chuck Norris allows to live.

  13. #13 Youth Wants to Know
    March 19, 2006

    I realise this is off-topic, but, finding myself awash in a sea of penguin geeks….

    Why don’t penguins feet freeze to the ice, ala my tongue, the frozen porch rail and my evil sibling?

  14. #14 Typhis
    March 19, 2006

    Many extant penguins live in mid-latitudes (e.g. New Zealand, South Australia) and there is a good fossil record in both of these places. T.H. Huxley described the first fossil species, from a locality on the east coast of the South Island at about 45 degrees, 10 mins south, but called it Palaeeudyptes antarcticus even though it is further from the South Pole than London is from the North Pole! New Zealand was much further south during the Paleocene (maybe about 60 degrees S) but for much of the epoch it seems to have been relatively warm, possibly kept so by an anticlockwise gyre bringing water from subtropical regions.

  15. #15 John
    March 19, 2006

    Birds’ feet are scaly and do not sweat, so there is nothing to make them stick to ice or anything else.

  16. #16 Phoenician in a time of Romans
    March 19, 2006

    Below the fold you’ll find a reconstruction of Waimanu, a 61-62 million year old penguin that was discovered in New Zealand.

    Of course, it only came to official attention after a sweep of the DSW databases showed it had been claiming welfare for 58 million years…

  17. #17 Jacob
    March 20, 2006

    I’d just like to point out that the penguin’s front appendages are fins that became feet that became wings that became flippers. How many other organs do you know of that went through so many distinct evolutionary transitions in a mere few hundred million years?

  18. #18 Youth Wants To Know
    March 20, 2006

    Dear John;

    Thanks for clearing that up. Now, if someone will just explain how the little critters go swimming without getting their feet wet, I’ll be a happy camper.

  19. #19 KiwiInOz
    March 21, 2006

    And for the trivia buffs, Waimanu literally means water bird, in Maori.

  20. #20 Craig Shergold
    March 21, 2006

    I’d just like to point out that the penguin’s front appendages are fins that became feet that became wings that became flippers. How many other organs do you know of that went through so many distinct evolutionary transitions in a mere few hundred million years?

    My ovipositor.

  21. #21 EDWIN HINCAPIE
    November 21, 2006

    Bone histology of
    Cretaceous ornithurines
    is similar to that
    of modern birds?

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