"Extinct" Penguin found 500 years later
The endangered species list is always climbing, and with the onset of global warming it is encouraging to have found new species previously thought to be extinct. "Penguins" always remind me of the land-locked birds from the south pole, but these feathered friends are hail from the island of New Zealand.
WELLINGTON, New Zealand – Researchers studying a rare and endangered species of penguin have uncovered a previously unknown species that disappeared about 500 years ago.
The research suggests that the first humans in New Zealand hunted the newly found Waitaha penguin to extinction by 1500, about 250 years after their arrival on the islands. But the loss of the Waitaha allowed another kind of penguin to thrive — the yellow-eyed species that now also faces extinction, Philip Seddon of Otago University, a co-author of the study, said Wednesday.
The team was testing DNA from the bones of prehistoric modern yellow-eyed penguins for genetic changes associated with human settlement when it found some bones that were older — and had different DNA.
Tests on the older bones "lead us to describe a new penguin species that became extinct only a few hundred years ago," the team reported in a paper in the biological research journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences.
Polynesian settlers came to New Zealand around 1250 and are known to have hunted species such as the large, flightless moa bird to extinction.