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Abstract

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.
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