Paleontologists in Peru, who recently unearthed an almost complete skeleton of a penguin that used to inhabit the earth about 36 million years ago, have revealed that the flightless bird used to be reddish-brown and grey, not black and white!
And that's not all - They were also much larger than our current breed of tuxedo birds. This particular specimen was estimated to be almost 5ft. tall and probably weighed about 120lbs - or twice the weight of the Emperor Penguin, the largest penguin species alive.
The scientists were able to determind the color thanks to imprints of feathers found in the rocks around the fossil, as well as, some preserved soft tissue around the fossil foot. To establsh the color, the paleontologists examined the shape of the penguin's melanosomes, the tiny structures that contain pigment cells that give bird feathers their color.
While examining these the scientists noticed another anomaly - Though the feathers were stacked up like the modern penguins - meaning that they had already evolved to swimmers, the melanosomes were different - More like those of the modern birds and unlike the giant ones that modern penguins sport.
Paleontologists believe that the melanosomes probably evolved as a way to protect the features against wear and tear. The modern black and white coloring is also believed to be a later evolution - a camouflage to hide from predators like seals, who did not exist 36 million years ago, when these giant red penguins, who have been dubbed Inkayacu paracasensis or Water King, inhabited our seas.