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15 December 2019

At https://phys.org/news/2019-12-penguins-dinosaurs-died.html … and see also https://doi.org/10.26879/1009 … a study published in Paleontologia Elekronika (December 2019) concerns the paleontological evolution of early penguins after the discovery of fossil penguins on the Chatham Islands – off the coast of New Zealand's South Island. They are said to date just after the K/T boundary event when New Zealand was thought to ba a tropical paradise. Some of the fossil penuguins are huge – but others were nothing out of the ordinary. Penguins as big as humans in fact. Imagine. But why did they cease to fly? They are, after all, birds. Penguin fossils, at a date somewhat later, have also been found on South Island (or at its extremities). The theory being tossed around is that penguins evolved very quickly directly after K/T. They also diverged from the lineage that includes the albatross and petrels, birds that still fly – over very long distances, at some point during the Cretaceous (dinosaur period). It is impossible that penguins lost the ability to fly and gained the ability to swim after the extinction event – time was too short, we are told. Is this a case of uniformitarianism stuck in a rut? It seems to imply the birds underwent huge changes in a very short time, which is thought to be unlikely. However, what if they are mired in an immediately post K/T sedimentary bed that was actually all part of the asteroid strike. Would that instead imply penguins were penguins even in the time of the dinosaurs. Not all birds flew in the dinosaur era. Having said that after K/T life forms could have evolved very quickly in order to fill the vacant niches in the biosphere. The idea of punctuated equilibrium within nature.

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