New Zealand is known as a global hotspot for seabird diversity since it is surrounded by highly productive oceans that attract seabirds from all over the globe. In fact, the New Zealand Department of Conservation even stated that New Zealand is considered the “seabird capital of the world.”
However, due to the lack of fossil discoveries connecting New Zealand’s living seabirds to their ancient relatives, establishing when this hotspot was formed has been a challenge. This was until fossil bones from an ancient penguin have been found by local collectors in coastal Taranaki in the North Island of New Zealand.
A group of researchers from Massey University, Bruce Museum (CT, USA), Canterbury Museum, Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, and Iowa State University (IA, USA) have analyzed the said fossil bones and they have discovered that the fossil bones belong to a three-million-year old, dawn crested penguin from Taranaki called the Eudyptes atatu.
According to Massey University, a university in New Zealand, the discovery of Eudyptes atatu now provides “a crucial connection to the past, confirming crested penguins, and perhaps other types of seabird, have been living in Zealandia” for millions of years.
Zealandia, based on the research news provided by the National Science Foundation, is the hidden continent that sank due to dramatic elevation changes between 50 and 35 million years ago. Some also call it Earth’s lost eighth continent.
“The study concludes that the ancestor of all penguins lived in Zealandia over 60 million years ago, and that the ancestor of crested penguins may have originated in Zealandia before its descendants dispersed throughout the Southern Hemisphere.”
– Massey University, September 16, 2020
“Our growing fossil record suggests that Zealandia was an incubator of penguin diversity in which the first penguins likely evolved and later dispersed throughout the Southern Hemisphere.”
– Daniel Thomas from the School of Natural and Computational Sciences at Massey University, one of the author of the study
Eudyptes atatu, the name of the newly described penguin species, came from a contraction of ata tū, which means “dawn” in Te Reo Maori. The word dawn, according to Thomas, references the fact that the species is the beginning of their knowledge for crested penguins in New Zealand.
The study about Eudyptes atatu was published on August 12 2020 in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B. It is called the “Ancient crested penguin constrains timing of recruitment into seabird hotspot.”
For More News and Updates
See more news and updates like this one by exploring our Baguio City Guide website and by liking and following our official Baguio City Guide Facebook page. You may also check out our official Baguio City Guide YouTube channel to as well catch a variety of video content.