In the story i'm writing a group of African penguins evolved to be fully upright (instead of having their knees bent like modern penguins).

enter image description here

Now some basic characteristics of these "erect penguins" are:

  • being 7 feet tall
  • are erect bipeds
  • hunt in packs
  • are socially monogamous
  • are slightly more slender
  • lack blubber
  • have powerful legs
  • still being carnivorous
  • use their powerful beaks to peck their pray to death
  • have a top speed of 30 mph
  • use their flippers for balance when running
  • have prepositionally longer legs than body
  • have a slightly thinner and longer neck

Given these characteristics, could such a creature exist, and what evolutionary pressures would lead to them?

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Also no blubber, if they're outside the polar regions. $\endgroup$ – Spencer Mar 25 at 23:26
  • $\begingroup$ @Spencer they live in Africa $\endgroup$ – icewar1908 Mar 25 at 23:27
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Upright position - brings the problem of body balance while running at 40mph = 64km/h = 17m/s. Kangaroos - upright - are reaching these king of speed, but are mostly hopping. $\endgroup$ – Adrian Colomitchi Mar 25 at 23:47
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ "steering" in this case means to help with balance when running similar to ostriches $\endgroup$ – icewar1908 Mar 26 at 0:00
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ In short, they evolved to run. That is the pressure. I'll see if I can elaborate on it later in an answer. $\endgroup$ – Renan Mar 26 at 3:15

The reason penguins have their knees above their hips is purely for balance. The kneeling pose means the center of mass is always below the pivot point, giving much added balance, which is needed for slippery surfaces.

When further evolving this away from the polar regions, then a fair few characteristics would change to adapt and increase survivability in the new region. This is of course given that the species survives long enough in the new area to evolve this way, as a slow fat penguin makes for a tasty snack for the African predators.

The added balance is not needed, and speed is favoured to run away from predators. This means the legs will extend, and the knees will indeed be below the hip. This will come with added height, so a longer neck is needed to reach the ground for feeding. With this, a horizontal body rather than a vertical one is preferable as they would near constantly be bending over. This means the upright state of them is questionable.

As for balancing while running, I would rather expect a larger tail rather than the flippers, as the wings are mostly tucked away in most bird species for added aerodynamics. With this, fluffier feathers will be needed to create drag, as a fully aerodynamic bipedal body won't balance very well at high speed. This is less manoeuvrable in water, so I would expect them to swim less or not at all.

Basically what I have just described as an evolutionary prediction, is (as the comments pointed out) an ostrich. You could play with how they look a bit, but it would be best to take them as a base and merge them with the penguin characteristics you would like to retain.

Of course, if you want this to be a sentient species, the dynamic would change. The human-like upright body would not be out of the question, but they would need appendages for tool use. As it is commonly believed tool use was the catalyst for humans to start developing sentience, they would need the appendages for that. Also they would need a larger head to accommodate the larger brain capacity.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ not just balance but also the hip anatomy, birds don't have the same hip joint mobility mammals do, the hip joint and musculature is drastically different. To rotate the legs that far, you also need to rotate the pelvis otherwise you have no muscles to to attach to the back of he leg. $\endgroup$ – John Mar 26 at 12:24
  • $\begingroup$ @John come to think of it would they even have bird like legs or would they have more humanoid ones? $\endgroup$ – icewar1908 2 days ago
  • $\begingroup$ legs maybe but human like hips would require a drastic redesign of the avian hip, and if therizinosaur are any indication evolution will twist the hip at a right angle before that happens. $\endgroup$ – John 2 days ago
  • $\begingroup$ @John so bird legs got it $\endgroup$ – icewar1908 2 days ago

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.