Saturday, January 22, 2011


Most people think that penguins live in cold places like Antarctica, and not in warm places like Peru.  And they think that was especially true back millions and millions of years ago, when the whole earth was lots warmer than it is now, and the air-conditioner hadn't been invented yet.  So that is why scientists were shocked in 2005 when they found some fossils of really, really tall penguins who used to live in the warm water near the equator.

Icadyptes salasi

The tallest penguin we have nowadays is the Emperor penguin, and it is 4.3 feet tall.  But one of these fossil penguins was 5 feet tall and had a beak that was 7 inches long.  This penguin is called Icadyptes salasi, and it lived about 36 million years ago.  First it probably started out living near New Zealand, and then it sort of migrated north to the ocean near southern Peru.

A picture of Perudyptes that shows
where the fossil bones fit. 

The other penguin fossil that the scientists found in Peru was even older, like 42 million years old.  In dog years, this would be 2 billion, 94 million years!  Anyway, this penguin was called Perudyptes devriesi, and it was between 2.5 and 3 feet tall, which is about the same size as a King penguin is today.  It may have started out living near Antarctica before it moved north.

Perudyptes, Humbolt, Icadyptes
Until these fossils were found, people had thought that penguins lived where it was pretty cold, at least until the earth cooled off to be the temperature it is now.  Today you can find the Humbolt penguin living along the coasts of Peru, Ecuador, and Chile, but it is lots smaller than the two fossil penguins.  Also there is a penguin called the Galapagos penguin, and it lives right on the equator.  It is the only penguin that ever crosses over into the Northern Hemisphere, but only by a few hundred yards.

Okay, so what do we know about these extinct giant penguins besides the fact that they were really tall?  Well, for one thing, we know they were probably really good swimmers, which is also true of penguins today.  But the extinct penguins had flippers that still looked a little more like wings than the flippers of modern penguins do.  And this is because they were still busy changing over from being regular birds that fly to being penguins that only waddle and swim.

The giant penguins probably ate lots of yummy fish, because it would be easy for them to catch and swallow fish with their big, long beaks.  We don't know what color these penguins were, but I like to think they were black-and-white, like me.

I don't think I would like to meet either Icadyptes or Perudyptes because those big beaks make them look kind of fierce and scary, especially Icadyptes.  And also their names are hard to spell.  I hope that doesn't mean I am a bad little dog for saying that, but I am just being honest about how I feel!


  1. wow - we here in this house did not know about giant penguins before your post. But then my mom said there had been giant sloths, giant beavers and even giant lemurs, so why not giant penguins.

    -Zest, superstar in training

  2. I guess lots of animals were bigger back in the old days, and not just because they lived in Texas! Hahahaha!


  3. except horses, horses were tiny. i don't know why.

    and do you not have a coat? your mom should get you a coat if you're going to have that much snow. or at least let you pee inside.


  4. Dear Piper,
    I wish my mom let me have a blog too!!! You are such a lucky girl!!! The only reason I can't have my own blog is 'cause mom hogs up the computer all to her self and then when she goes to work, Dad doesn't turn it on for me either, thinking I might get blinded.:( I read your blog everyday but I am not allowed to post anything, I can't type either. But today Aunt Gina let me use her computer and I am going to stay with her for a week...Besides that I LOVE your blog, I am not a very bright dog, I blame mom and dad for that!!! I hope you keep on writing blogs!!!
    Fluffy the Chihuahua
    (and Aunt Gina the interpereter)

  5. Dear Zest,
    Yes, I have a very pretty red coat, but I hate wearing sweaters and coats, and so Mom doesn't make me do it very often. Also it is a lot of trouble to put my coat on if I'm just going to run out and pee and run back inside. At least that's the excuse Mom has for not making me put my coat on. Peeing inside would definitely solve a lot of problems.

    You're right about the tiny horses. I had forgotten about them. They had 3 toes, too. Maybe I will write about them someday. Or maybe not.

    Your friend, Piper

  6. Dear Fluffy the Chihuahua,
    I think that if you read my blog every day, that means you really are a very bright dog. I can't believe your mom won't let you have a blog of your own. Maybe you should go live with your Aunt Gina all the time because you have got her trained to interpret and type for you. It's important for us dogs to get our humans properly trained, even if it takes a lot of time and patience.

    Well, anyway, thanks for reading my blog and for posting a comment. I'm glad you like the stuff I write!

    Your friend, Piper

  7. Hey...Dodi here! I haven't spilled any more cranberry juice, lemonade or orange juice...nor run and jump on Di to make her cry, so my mom said I could write. :)

    I don't think you're a bad little dog for what you said because I thought the same thing. Those "old" penguins sure had big and/or long beaks...I wonder if they'd eat a cat? Maybe they only liked fish. Mom said there probably weren't cats back then or at least those of my size.
    Have a good weekend!
    Love, Dodi

  8. Dear Dodi,
    I'm glad you are behaving well enough so that you got to write a comment to me. Just don't behave so well that you never have any fun!

    I don't know if the big, scary penguins would eat a cat or not. Maybe all the cats in those days were big, like saber-toothed tigers. I don't think a penguin could eat one of those!

    Love, Piper

  9. Have there ever been saber-toothed basenjis? I bet saber-toothed basenjis could eat giant penguins.


  10. Oooh! I'll bet you are right! I hope there WERE some saber-toothed basenjis!