Skeletal remains of penguins from the Eocene La Meseta Formation (Seymour Island, Antarctica) constitute the only extensive fossil record of Antarctic Sphenisciformes. No articulated skeletons are known, and almost all fossils occur as single isolated elements. Most of the named species are based on tarsometatarsi (for which the taxonomy was revised in 2002). Here, 694 bones (from the Polish collection) other than tarsometatarsi are reviewed, and allocated to species. They confirm previous conclusions and suggest that ten species grouped in six genera are a minimal reliable estimate of the Eocene Antarctic penguin diversity. The species are: Anthropornis grandis, A. nordenskjoeldi, Archaeospheniscus wimani, Delphinornis arctowskii, D. gracilis, D. larseni, Marambiornis exilis, Mesetaornis polaris, Palaeeudyptes gunnari and P. klekowskii. Moreover, diagnoses of four genera (Anthropornis, Archaeospheniscus, Delphinornis and Palaeeudyptes) and two species (P. gunnari and P. klekowskii) are supplemented with additional, non-tarsometatarsal features. Four species of the smallest penguins from the La Meseta Formation (D. arctowskii, D. gracilis, M. exilis and M. polaris) seem to be the youngest taxa within the studied assemblage - their remains come exclusively from the uppermost unit of the formation. All ten recognized species may have co-existed in the Antarctic Peninsula region during the Late Eocene epoch.
Penguin bones from the La Meseta Formation (Seymour Island, Antarctic Peninsula) are the only record of Eocene Antarctic Sphenisciformes. Being an abundant component of the youngest unit of the formation (Telm7), they are not so common in earlier strata. Here, I present the oldest penguin remains from the La Meseta Formation (Telm1-Telm2), often bearing close resemblance to their counterparts from younger units. Addressing the recent findings in fossil penguin systematics, I suggest there is too weak a basis for erecting new Eocene Antarctic taxa based on non-tarsometatarsal elements of penguin skeletons, and considering Oligocene species part of the studied assemblage. Finally, I conclude if the common ancestor of extant Sphenisciformes lived in the Eocene Antarctic (as suggested recently), penguins referred to Delphinornis seem to be prime candidates to that position.
Eocene penguin remains from Seymour Island (Antarctica) are so far the oldest−known record of extinct Sphenisciformes. Rich Argentineand Polish collections of penguin bones from the La Meseta Formation are taxonomically revised on tarsometatarsal morphology. Two genera and four species are erected: Mesetaornis polarisgen. et sp. n., Marambiornis exilisgen. et sp. n., Delphinornis arctowskiisp. n. and D. gracilissp. n. Moreover, the diagnoses of already described species: Anthropornis nordenskjoeldi, A. grandis, Palaeeudyptes klekowskii, P. gunnari, Archaeospheniscus wimani and Delphinornis larseniare revised as well. Gradual cooling of climate, changes of environment andtrophic relationships, that lasted several millions years, were most probably responsible forthe intense speciation and taxonomic diversification of the Middle–Late Eocene La Meseta penguins.
A few specimens of a macroporid bryozoan were collected, from the Eocene La Meseta Formation from Seymour (Marambio) Island, Antarctic Peninsula. Based on the morphology of the studied specimens Macropora antarctica sp.n. has been erected. This is the stratigraphically oldest species of the genus which exhibits a number of similarities with the Tertiary fossils and some Recent macroporids reported from the Southern Hemisphere i.e., Australia, New Zealand and South America.
The loose, small zooecia of the cheilostome bryozoans have been discovered in the lowermost part of the La Meseta Formation on Seymour (Marambio) Island. They systematically include the representatives of Beanidae Canu et Bassler, Catenicellidae Busk, Savignyellidae Levinsen, and Calwelliidae MacGillivra y. The bryozoan assemblage is comprised of separate, small−sized internal moulds dominated by distinct, boat−shaped zooecia belonging to Beania , scarce, unizooidal internodes tentatively included into a ditaxiporine catenicellid ? Vasignyella , and representative of the family Savignyellidae. A few branched segments composed of multiserial zooecia arranged back to back were tentatively incorporated into ? Malakosaria . Beania , marks the oldest fossil record, whereas representatives of Savignyellidae along with ditaxiporine catenicellid and ? Malakosaria are for the first time reported from Antarctica. The relationship between the taxonomic composition, colony growth−patterns rep− resented by membraniporiform/petraliform, catenicelliform and cellariform, along with associated biota and sedimentary structures of the La Meseta Formation implies nearshore environment, with considerable wave action, and warm climatic conditions.
The only record of the Paleogene Antarctic Sphenisciformes comes from the Eocene La Meseta Formation (Seymour Island, Antarctic Peninsula). The analysis of tarso− metatarsi attributed to the genus Anthropornis (“giant” penguins) from the Argentine, Polish and Swedish collections revealed an intriguing heterogeneity within these taxonomically important elements of the skeleton. The unique hypotarsal morphology challenges the current systematics of large−bodied penguins and sheds new light on their evolution.
An isolated, deciduous incisor of an archaic whale found in the upper part of the La Meseta Formation (Telm7) is tentatively assigned to the Archaeoceti. The strata from which the tooth was recovered are of Late Eocene (Priabonian) age, and previous reports indicate that they contain the remains of Dorudontinae (Archaeoceti) and Llanocetidae (Mysticeti). The tooth is similar in shape, size and ornamentation to the milk teeth of Zygorhiza. The enamel is mostly prismatic, with prism sheats generally open, except for the outermost layer, which is aprismatic. The Schmelzmuster consists of radial and decussating enamel types. The decussating zone has distinct Hunter-Schreger bands (HSB), usually consisting of 1012 prisms. It is bordered by an external zone built of radial enamel extending for 22% of the enamel thickness and an internal, starting zone, with less developed HSB, occupying 9% of the enamel thickness. The interprismatic matrix is parallel to the prism direction. An archaeocete origin of the tooth is suggested by its enamel features, typical for the group. However, additional study of the Llanocetidae enamel structure is needed for final identification.
Until now Eocene chimeroid holocephalians of Antarctica have been known from only a few specimens attributed to two species from the Eocene of Seymour Island. New material collected by Polish and English field parties includes numerous tooth plates and fin spine fragments from the Eocene La Meseta Formation. We describe a new species, Callorhinchus stahli, based on two mandibular and a single fragmentary palatine tooth plate. In addition, the stratigraphic distribution and diversity of Eocene Antarctic chimeroids is discussed. The chimeroid Ischyodus shows the greatest stratigraphic distribution with its greatest abundance in the middle parts of the La Meseta Formation while Chimaera and Callorhinchus are restricted to the lower ones. Changes in the environment and habitat availability most probably triggered the distributional pattern and the disappearance of chimeroids.
The fossil record of Antarctic Sphenisciformes dates as early as the late Palaeocene Cross Valley Formation, Seymour Island, Antarctic Peninsula. However, the best known Antarctic locality for early penguin remains (mainly isolated bones) is the Eocene La Meseta Formation that outcrops in the northeast of Seymour Island. The analysis of an unstudied set of specimens collected there by members of the British Antarctic Survey in 1989 has resulted in identification of a distal humerus from the unit Telm3 (early Eocene) of the formation that is the oldest known bone attributable to a medium−sized (in the context of the entire Cainozoic era) penguin. This find suggests that the origin of these birds, in con− junction with an increase in taxonomic diversity of the Eocene Sphenisciformes, was related to the Early Eocene Climatic Optimum (EECO) or, more probably, the early phase of subsequent cooling.
The fossil record of the Antarctic penguins is dated to the late Paleocene of Seymour (Marambio) Island, but the largest sphenisciforms, genera Anthropornis and Palaeeudyptes , originate from the Eocene La Meseta Formation. Here, the most complete large−scale reconstruction of a limb skeleton (a whole wing and a partial hind leg) of a Paleogene Antarctic penguin is reported. All bones are attributable to a single individual identified as Anthropornis sp. The comparative and functional analyses of the material indicate that this bird was most probably well−adapted to land and sea while having a number of intriguing features. The modern−grade carpometacarpal morphology is unique among known Eocene Antarctic species and all but one more northerly taxa.