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Penguins Evolved After Islands Formed

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New research has improved our understanding of when and why penguins evolved, and has identified two recently extinct penguins from New Zealand’s remote Chatham Islands.

In the study, published in Molecular Biology and Evolution (, an international team of researchers sequenced the mitochondrial genomes of all living and recently extinct penguin species. By analysing the genetic relationships of species, and using ancient fossil penguins to put a time scale on these, the team showed that many penguin species arose soon after the geological formation of islands, including those inhabiting the Antipodes and Chatham Islands, Macquarie Island, Gough Island and Galápagos Islands.

The study also confirmed that an extinct and unique crested penguin species existed on the Chatham Islands until a few centuries ago. The former existence of this species had long been suspected by study co-author Alan Tennyson of the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, who had previously examined penguin bones from these islands.

The study also threw up a complete surprise, revealing that a previously unknown small subspecies of yellow-eyed penguin also once existed on the Chatham Islands. “Evidence suggests Eudyptes warhami and Megadyptes antipodes richdalei inhabited the Chatham...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.