New Miocene Fossils and the History of Penguins in Australia
Travis Park , Erich M. G. Fitzgerald, Stephen J. Gallagher, Ellyn Tomkins, Tony Allan
Published: April 26, 2016http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0153915
Australia has a fossil record of penguins reaching back to the Eocene, yet today is inhabited by just one breeding species, the little penguin Eudyptula minor. The description of recently collected penguin fossils from the re-dated upper Miocene Port Campbell Limestone of Portland (Victoria), in addition to reanalysis of previously described material, has allowed the Cenozoic history of penguins in Australia to be placed into a global context for the first time. Australian pre-Quaternary fossil penguins represent stem taxa phylogenetically disparate from each other and E. minor, implying multiple dispersals and extinctions. Late Eocene penguins from Australia are closest to contemporaneous taxa in Antarctica, New Zealand and South America. Given current material, the Miocene Australian fossil penguin fauna is apparently unique in harbouring ‘giant penguins’ after they went extinct elsewhere; and including stem taxa until at least 6 Ma, by which time crown penguins dominated elsewhere in the southern hemisphere. Separation of Australia from Antarctica during the Palaeogene, and its subsequent drift north, appears to have been a major event in Australian penguin biogeography. Increasing isolation through the Cenozoic may have limited penguin dispersal to Australia from outside the Australasian region, until intensification of the eastwards-flowing Antarctic Circumpolar Current in the mid-Miocene established a potential new dispersal vector to Australia.
Citation: Park T, Fitzgerald EMG, Gallagher SJ, Tomkins E, Allan T (2016) New Miocene Fossils and the History of Penguins in Australia. PLoS ONE 11(4): e0153915. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0153915
Editor: Nicholas Pyenson, Smithsonian Institution, UNITED STATES
Received: July 24, 2015; Accepted: April 6, 2016; Published: April 26, 2016
Copyright: © 2016 Park et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
Data Availability: All relevant data are within the paper and its Supporting Information files.
Funding: Grant number: DP0558150, Australian Research Council, funder's website: www.arc.gov.au, author who received funding: SJG and ET. Funding was for fieldwork associated with geologic data collection and subsequent stratigraphic analyses only. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.
Competing interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.
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