South America

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Weird fossil of the week: Inkayacu

by Nick Garland

Thirty-six million years ago, during the Eocene Epoch, a group of giant penguins swam the world’s southern oceans. At 5 feet tall, a penguin affectionately nicknamed Pedro wasn’t even the biggest. 

Imagine an emperor penguin, the biggest of all living penguins at 3 feet tall. Seems pretty tall for a penguin, right? Now imagine a penguin that’s on average 5 feet tall and you have the giant penguin Inkayacu paracasensis.

The fossils of Inkayacu were first found in Peru and described in 2010. The “Water King” wasn’t the tallest of fossil penguins, though. That title goes to the 6-foot-tall Palaeeudyptes klekowskii, discovered in 2014 in Antarctica.

However, what Inkayacu lacks in height, it makes up in feathers. It had unusual coloration for a penguin. You might be asking yourself at this point, “How do you know the color of feathers from a penguin that’s been extinct perhaps more than 30 million years?” And that would be an excellent question. As researchers uncovered Inkayacu’s left forearm bones, they revealed a swath of fossilized feathers…

(read more: Earth Archives)

images: University of Texas and Julio Lacerda (bttm image)

ABC Bird of the Week:  Marvelous Spatuletail

The Marvelous Spatuletail, like so many of South America’s hundreds of hummingbird species, has a name that is both charming and descriptive. This one occurs only in the Rio Utcubamba valley, in the Andes of northern Peru.

The main threat to this hummingbird is habitat destruction, caused by illegal wood-cutting and burning for agriculture. Other threats include illegal hunting and invasive plants, which crowd out native flowering plants that provide food…

(read more: American Bird Conservancy)

photograph by Dubi Shapiro