Antarctic Science

Earth Sciences

The first record of fossil penguins from East Antarctica

Piotr Jadwiszczaka1 c1, Krzysztof P. Krajewskia2, Zinaida Pushinaa3, Andrzej Tatura4 and Grzegorz Zielińskia5

a1 Institute of Biology, University of Białystok, Świerkowa 20B, 15-950 Białystok, Poland

a2 Institute of Geological Sciences, Polish Academy of Sciences, Research Centre in Warszawa, Twarda 51/55, 00-818 Warszawa, Poland

a3 All-Russia Research Institute for Geology and Mineral Resources of the World Ocean (VNIIOkeangeologiya), Angliyskiy Prospekt 1, 190121 St Petersburg, Russia

a4 Faculty of Geology, Warsaw University, Żwirki i Wigury 93, 02-089 Warszawa, Poland

a5 Polish Geological Institute - National Research Institute, Rakowiecka 4, 00-975 Warszawa, Poland


This paper presents the first fossil penguin from East Antarctica, and the only one known south of the Antarctic Circle. It is represented by two well-preserved elements of the wing skeleton, humerus and radius, obviously assignable to the extant genus Spheniscus. They were found in the glaciomarine succession of the Fisher Bench Formation (Fisher Massif, Prince Charles Mountains, Mac. Robertson Land), which was dated using Strontium Isotope Stratigraphy to be Late Miocene in age (10.2 Ma). They are only slightly younger than the oldest remains undoubtedly attributable to this taxon. The X-ray diffraction and Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy indicate diagenetic alteration of the original bone bioapatite under dominantly marine conditions. The Late Miocene was a period of ice margin retreat and marine incursion into the Lambert embayment that followed Middle Miocene cooling of the Antarctic climate. The fossils strongly suggest that variable climatic and environmental conditions in East Antarctica may have been an important factor in the evolution of penguins there during the Neogene.

(Received April 20 2012)

(Accepted September 07 2012)

(Online publication November 15 2012)

Key words

  • bioapatite diagenesis;
  • Fisher Massif;
  • Late Miocene;
  • Prince Charles Mountains;
  • Spheniscus ;
  • wing skeleton