The World's Biggest Penguin Ever: Water King Penguin

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The Water King Penguin

The largest penguin alive today is the Emperor Penguin! Up until 2010, they have been believed to be the largest penguins to have ever walked this earth. Recently, scientists have uncovered a new species of penguin that is twice the size of an Emperor Penguin and stood 5 feet tall! They have been dubbed the Water King Penguin, not to be confused with the King Penguin, which is still alive today. The Water King Penguin, known to the scientific world as Inkayacu Paracasensis, was discovered in Peru. Some scientists believe that it lived in prehistoric times: 36 million years ago! A rare discovery was found when they uncovered fossilized feathers showing that this great creature was a mix of reddish brown and gray. It was through research of these prehistoric penguins that scientists learned more about the modern penguins.

A Baby Emperor Penguin (Chick)

The emperor penguin is currently the largest living penguin today.
The emperor penguin is currently the largest living penguin today. | Source

The Original Discovery of the Water King Penguin

This ancient penguin was originally discovered on a desert in Peru in 2007. Although it took until 2010 to report the findings.This great find was actually an accidental discovery of a student of the Museo de Historia Natural in Lima (Museum of Natural History). Imagine the great joy of this student as he unearths a mystery, before he has even become a full-fledged paleontologist: a dream come true! His original discovery was of a foot of the bird that had scales. Scales being preserved is a rare and magnificent find!

There actually were two other giant penguins also discovered in this same area, although the King Water Penguin was by far the largest measuring the same height as many adult humans at five feet. The Emperor Penguin measures only 4 feet.

It is not the size of the Water King Penguin that captured so many scientists attention, but it was its unique feathers. This was the first time preserved feathers from prehistoric penguins had ever been discovered. They also have preserved scales from the bottom of these penguins feet as well.

King Penguin

A King Penguin, not to be confused with the prehistoric Water King Penguin. Note it's tuxedo like appearance that the Water King Penguin would not have shared.
A King Penguin, not to be confused with the prehistoric Water King Penguin. Note it's tuxedo like appearance that the Water King Penguin would not have shared. | Source

How Penguins Became Great Swimmers

Aside from the unique color of the fossilized feathers, scientists discovered some other fascinating information about how penguins became such great swimmers.They not only were able to uncover feathers from the flipper, but also from the body. One excavator was fortunate enough to find a fossilized flipper that had both types of feathers attached. At first glance, the feathers appeared to be just like the feathers of today's penguins. Today's penguins have flipper feathers that are densely stacked that allow the flipper to be stiff. This allows it to move very quickly through the water, changing directions and maneuvering very easily. Although the water king penguins feathers were structurally the same, the composition of the feather's DNA was different. More specifically the makeup of it that usually pertains more to color than to ability of the feather that allows the birds to be such excellent swimmers.

Penguin Feather

A penguin feather, this one is from a Rock Hopper Penguin have a large shaft and lots of down to keep the penguin warm
A penguin feather, this one is from a Rock Hopper Penguin have a large shaft and lots of down to keep the penguin warm | Source

Discovering The Water King's Coloring

Some of you may have wondered how in the world they were able to determine the color of the water penguin. Aren't all fossils gray? Well, yes, but they were able to discover the color of the water king's feathers due to traces of melanosomes that can be found in fossils. For instance, our skin has melanin, so if you have ever heard there are many colors of humans, black, white, red, well, that's not true. We are all the same color and that is melanin, it's just some of us have an abundant of melanin and have very dark skin, whereas pasty folks like myself, lack melanin. Well, melanosomes can determine what color the fossil would have been. By comparing the malanosomes in many different creatures it was determined that the King Water penguin had a mix of reddish brown and gray feathers.

Although this in and of itself does not seem particularly unusual, it's the way these melanosomes presented themselves in the DNA of the King Water feather. It is believed that the dark black tuxedo look of modern penguins has more to do with swimming prowess than sex or camouflage as previously believed. Penguin's melanosomes usually are grape-like, whereas most other birds melanosomes are not. The King Water penguin's melanosomes were more like that of other birds. Now you may wonder how this would pertain to its ability to swim, but really it's quite related.

Melanin, the coloring product found in melanosomes, help protect the feather from breakage. Those of modern penguins had more grape-like melanin and therefore, were less likely to break than those of the King Water Penguin and other birds. This may have caused the demise of the King Water Penguin since it was not as adept at swimming or as many scientists believe, the King Water Penguin's feathers began to evolve to allow for better swimming producing the modern penguin.

© 2010 Angela Michelle

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Comments 17 comments

halli bailey 4 years ago

check out the king water penguin


yusydancer 5 years ago

cool


Cashbackshopper profile image

Cashbackshopper 5 years ago

Nice Presentation.


angela_michelle profile image

angela_michelle 5 years ago from United States Author

I find them very fascinating! I loved the movie, March of the Penguins.


andrebreynolds profile image

andrebreynolds 5 years ago

Whenever I see penguins, they are always as cute as babies. Awesome hub! I love reading hubs about penguins.


Lyn.Stewart profile image

Lyn.Stewart 5 years ago from Auckland, New Zealand

Thank you for this wonderful hub ... Now I know something new ... yay 4 me


angela_michelle profile image

angela_michelle 6 years ago from United States Author

I wonder if it is as delightful as it sounds. Interesting, that is for sure. :)


Garnetbird 6 years ago

Delightful animal! Well-written Hub!


angela_michelle profile image

angela_michelle 6 years ago from United States Author

Thank you so much Dallas!!! I appreciate your comment.


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dallas93444 6 years ago from Bakersfield, CA

Good topic presented in easy readable manner. Thanks for sharing.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 6 years ago from United States

What a very interesting hub. I never though of seeing a penguin that size and all the details were fascinating.


angela_michelle profile image

angela_michelle 6 years ago from United States Author

Thank you mentalist for that great compliment. You know me and my love for research!


angela_michelle profile image

angela_michelle 6 years ago from United States Author

LOL, I actually am not a big fan of astronomy, only because it was the only test I ever failed. LOL. Big fan of Peanut butter cookies though!!!


Mentalist acer profile image

Mentalist acer 6 years ago from A Voice in your Mind!

Your detail of all aspects of the Penquin feathers,were exquisite Angela;)


surlyoldcat 6 years ago

Well, there are some aspects that would make having a family very difficult. There are aspects where having a family would curtail your work. It all evens out. Being an armchair scientist has it's merits, and you don't have to worry about vicious beasties or angry locals making life heck.

I would have gone into astronomy as that is my first love...well my first love is peanut butter cookies, but, well, you get the drift.


angela_michelle profile image

angela_michelle 6 years ago from United States Author

Oh my goodness! I have met the male version of me. I bet we could talk for hours. I love dinosaurs, prehistoric stuff, and oh my goodness, if I didn't want a family I would have been a paleontologist. I just didn't think I could devote myself fully to both passions!


surlyoldcat 6 years ago

WAY COOL!

I love science, especially prehistoric lineages and animals (yeah I was a dinosaur freak as a kid) amongst other disciplines. Reading about things like this hold a lot of interest. It's like reading about the real sabretooth cats discovery from back in 2006 (or 2007.)

Well done and written.

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    Citations

    • http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/09/30/inkayacu-paracasensis-wat_n_745737.html
    • http://www.dailygalaxy.com/my_weblog/2010/10/the-water-king-a-prehistoric-penguin-as-tall-as-a-human-discovered.html
    • http://news.gather.com/viewArticle.action?articleId=281474978563946

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