Discovery of fossil evidence of the smallest penguin that ever lived on earth

Researchers have discovered two fossilized skulls of a newly discovered species, Eudyptula wilsonae, in the South Taranaki region of the North Island of New Zealand. The skulls, which belonged to a mature adult penguin and a juvenile penguin, are strikingly similar in size and shape to the small penguins (Eudyptula minor) that still exist today, the smallest living penguin species.

Quoted from Live ScienceDue to the lack of bones found, researchers aren’t sure exactly how small the extinct birds were, but today’s little penguins typically reached 35 cm tall and weighed about 0.9 kg at their maximum size.

Today, little penguins and their four subspecies live in mainland Australia, New Zealand, and Tasmania, but researchers aren’t sure where they originated. According to the researchers, the new findings show that the species was well established in New Zealand.

Daniel Thomas“The fact that the little penguin lineage has remained relatively unchanged for such a long time is a testament to its evolutionary flexibility,” said Zoologist from Massey University in New Zealand and the study’s lead author in a statement. He added: “Climatic conditions have changed a lot over time and this species has been resistant to these changes.”

The researchers also wrote that the discovery could help scientists fill in historical gaps in Australia’s ecosystem and provide new insights into the country’s other extinct and living species.

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