The diversity of penguins in terms of where they live and size brings with it quite a few questions. The evolution of this particular bird still has many unknown elements to it. There are currently 17 species identified, but in the future DNA could further result in that being broken down to include 20 species. It takes a great deal of investigating, research, and exploration to be able to get this approved. It isn’t an overnight process.
There is substantial information that has been found in relation to evolution of penguins. There has also been a large amount of research to look into all of it. Yet there are still plenty of unknown elements. Some of the remains of early penguins indicate that once upon a time they may have been able to fly.
Their body structure was more wing like than flipper like. Over time though this evolved so that they would be able to live in the water. This change may have occurred more than 65 million years ago. That could prove to be the turning point of evolution that allowed the penguin to survive. They may not have been able to get their basic needs met and survive as land only creatures.
Such information suggests that penguins were once not a large part of aquatic life. Yet what occurred in their living conditions that made it necessary to spend more time in the water and to find food in the water isn’t known with any certainty. Remains of fossils from early penguins in New Zealand indicate that they were large birds at that time.
It is believed some of the early penguins may have been up to 5 feet tall. They are believed to have disappeared at the end of the Paleocene Period. There is still plenty of debate on this particular theory though. It is one that is very hard to prove, but by the same token it can’t be ruled out either.
There is also the theory that some of the birds that could fly were able to survive around Antarctica. They may have traveled there in search of food. The ability to find food and a lack of predators may have allowed them to survive in this region. At the same time, it encouraged the evolution process so that their body would be right for such conditions. More branching out occurred too in terms of the coloration of some species of penguins based on where they live.
There is plenty of information that indicates changes in the geography and temperatures also helped with the evolution of penguins. The slow cooling led to the ice age that developed. This could be why more penguins are found in regions other than Antarctica. The early fossil remains of penguins indicates that they are at least 60 million years old. They also indicate at least 40 species that are already extinct.
It is very interesting to explore the various theories about the evolution of penguins. We do have more information to rely on with the fossils than with many other creatures so that is a move in the right direction. However, there are still plenty of questions that need to be answered. As technology offers new insight, we can dispel some of the theories and also give credit to others.
It may be hard to imagine penguins as once being much larger and having the ability to fly, but it certainly seems that was very likely. Further DNA research may also indicate that there are further breakdowns among the species that have been identified. In the meantime, you may want to explore your own theories on the subject.