A new study has revealed the existence of huge monster birds, which looked similar to penguins, in the Northern Hemisphere. These birds, strikingly similar to the New Zealand’s penguins, lived in Japan, the USA and Canada around 62 million years ago.
On comparing the fossilized bones of plotopterids with the fossils of the giant penguin species from Canterbury Museum's collection, both were found to have similar long beaks with slit-like nostrils, chest, shoulder bones and wings.
The study was published on Monday in the Journal of Zoological Systematics and Evolutionary Research. It established the similarity between penguins and plotopterids by discovering the fossilized bones of the ancient waddlers at Waipara, North Canterbury.
As mentioned, “the osteology of the late Eocene was compared to the early Miocene penguin‐like Plotopteridae from the North Pacific Basin.” Interestingly, some of these ancient birds were as large as 5-feet-tall.
Vanessa De Pietri, a curator at Canterbury Museum, mentioned that both plotopterids and ancient penguins evolved these similar features independently. “This is an example of what we call convergent evolution, when distantly related organisms develop similar morphological traits under similar environmental conditions,” Vanessa added.
Despite several similarities between the two birds, plotopterids are more closely related to gannets and cormorants as compared to penguins. From sleeping to eating and swimming, plotopterids were so similar to penguins that it was difficult to state the differences between them.
“We think both penguins and plotopterids had flying ancestors that would plunge from the air into the water in search of food, which got better and worse at flying with time,” observed Dr Gerald Mayr of the Senckenberg Research Institute and Natural History Museum, Frankfurt.