Warm-climate penguins

Fossil penguin discoveries point to another possible pre-Flood habitat for semi-aquatic animals.


Photo from Wikipedia.org Penquin
Galápagos penguins

In a June 26, 2007 article, Los Angeles Times reporter Amber Dance discusses the discovery, announced the previous day, that fossils of two ‘giant’ penguins have been unearthed in Peru.1 They stood up to 1.5 m or 5 feet high, though a fossil penguin from Antarctica holds the record at some 30% taller.

The article notes that the discovery ‘promises to change the way scientists think about penguins and cold weather.’ The LA Times story is drawn from a paper in the online Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.2

The long-held evolutionary view of penguins is that they originated about 60 million years ago, not long (in evolutionary terms) after the supposed extinction event that eliminated dinosaurs. Their habits were possibly like those of the loon, with a long, pointed beak best suited to catching, and possibly spearing, fish.

The various species of penguins are believed by evolutionists to have originated in the Antarctic and developed as they radiated out from there. Most penguins today favour colder and even frigid conditions, but not all do. Some penguins today inhabit warm regions, such as the Galápagos Islands, which are very close to the equator.

However, evolutionists have long held that penguins first evolved as cold-weather birds, in the southern polar regions, and those that live closer to the equator today have come as much later adaptations migrating from those regions. Up to eight million years ago, they believe, no penguins had yet come to live anywhere near the equator. But these large penguins found as fossils were in Peru, far away from the frigid Antarctic. And they were ‘dated’ as having lived some 30–40 million years ago.

These fossil finds confirm that even giant specimens can live in warmer locales, and they throw existing evolutionary ideas about penguins into disarray.

Most creationist models of the pre-Flood world suggest that the planet’s climate was generally temperate and tropical throughout, with no polar icecaps. So if that is the case, where did penguins live in the antediluvian world?

It should certainly be expected that marine animals with no aspect of life on land (fish, mollusks, whales, and dolphins) were not on the Ark, although detractors of a literal approach to the biblical Flood account often farcically assert that fish and all other species had to be on board. The Bible specifies that of air-breathing land animals, two of every kind were taken on the Ark of Noah.3 If penguins are considered of this category then it must be assumed that they were on board, and that this is how they were saved from the destruction of the Flood.

On the other hand, any animals that did not require dry land to survive could have been preserved outside the Ark. This includes all animals that spend some of their time on land, but are primarily aquatic, such as penguins (in addition to many reptiles and amphibians as well as mammals like walruses and seals).

It is possible, though, that many of these animals did not originally live even part of the time on dry land (a condition specified as requisite for a ticket to board the Ark—Genesis 7:22, 23).

Floating forests—the pre-Flood ‘iceshelves’?

Way back in 1884 an evolutionary botanist, Otto Kunze, proposed the concept of a ‘Floating Forest.’ Creationist Joachim Scheven elaborates on this floating forest as a major pre-Flood ecosystem: massive drifting islands of plant-life characterized by intertwining root systems. The fossil evidence is abundant in Northern Hemisphere coal beds, where preserved plant forms feature hollow trunks or stem structures along with symmetrical and radial root systems, characteristic of plants that today float on water. See ‘Forests that grew on water’.

Much of the massive amount of coal in the world today originated as floating forests which had been adrift in the ancient seas. These coal beds are found one after the other in multiple layers and this has often been asserted as proof of the uniformitarian belief in millions and millions of years. It is not at all hard to envision how these vast floating rafts of vegetation might have been beached and deposited in successive surges of tidal or tsunami flows during the Great Flood. Gerhard Schönknecht and Siegfried Scherer, make use of the floating forests concept in their paper soundly addressing the supposed problem of Too much coal for a young earth? If there were millions of square miles of such floating forest, it would easily account for the vast coal deposits in today’s world.

Imagine the pre-Flood world with seas full of this type of vegetation. The now extinct floating forest habitat would have been an ideal environment for the ancestors of at least some of the modern animals that now thrive on ice shelves.

Whether they were taken on board or survived outside the Ark as primarily water-dwelling creatures, penguins survived the Flood and then went on to multiply and repopulate the earth. As they became progressively established in regions closer and closer to the South Pole, they adapted to colder temperatures. This is the reverse of the ‘penguins first arose in a cold environment’ scenario that has till now dominated evolutionary thinking, but it is supported by the discovery of these fossil penguins in Peru.

Such adaptation by natural selection utilizes information that is already present within the created kind, and is not a creative process that adds new information. See Q & A: Natural Selection. It is thus quite consistent with a Genesis creation model. In the years following the Flood, about twenty species of penguins have developed from the few loon-like birds that survived it. Such adaptation and speciation, far from being a problem to the biblical model, is an intrinsic part of it. See Q & A: Speciation.

Today, along with many specialized mammals, these aquatic birds, the penguins, swim comfortably beneath the ice for extended periods of time and then surface for a breath as needed. Before the Flood, the ancestors of these types of creatures could have easily thrived in the now-extinct ecosystem of the floating forest.

Published: 24 July 2007


  1. ‘Fossil of giant penguin found in Peru’, LA Times, June 26, 2007 Return to Text.
  2. Clarke, J.A., Ksepka, D.T., Stucchi, M, Urbina, M., Giannini, N., Bertelli, S., Narváez, Y. and Boyd, C.A., Paleogene equatorial penguins challenge the proposed relationship between biogeography, diversity, and Cenozoic climate change, PNAS doi 10.1073/pnas.0611099104, Published online before print 29 June 2007. Return to Text.
  3. Genesis 6:17; 7:15–16, 22. Return to Text.

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