28 August 2015

New fossil skulls reveal insights about penguin brain evolution

ANTARCTICA - When they're not being the stars of various animated movies, penguins are playing an important role in evolutionary studies. Penguins are unique among modern birds in that they 'fly' through the water. Although flightless in air, penguins have a number of adaptations which allow them glide effortlessly through the water. And some of these adaptations are in an unlikely part of their anatomy - their brains. Recent finds of fossil penguins from 35 million year old sediments in Antarctica have begun to shed light on the changes in penguin brains that accompanied their transition to water.

11 August 2015

Shifting winds and ocean currents double endangered Galapagos penguin population

Galápagos penguins. Credit: Snowmanradio on Flickr
GALAPAGOS ISLANDS – Shifts in trade winds and ocean currents powered a resurgence of Galápagos penguins over the past 30 years, according to a new study. These changes enlarged a cold pool of water the penguins rely on for food and breeding – an expansion that could continue as the climate changes over the coming decades, the study’s authors said.

The Galápagos Islands, a chain of islands 1000km west of mainland Ecuador, are home to the only penguins in the Northern Hemisphere. The 48-cm tall black and white Galápagos penguins landed on the endangered species list in 2000 after the population plummeted to only a few hundred individuals and are now considered the rarest penguins in the world.