A fossil of a giant penguin with a body length of around 150 centimeters ((4.92 feet)) has been discovered in New Zealand.
The new species is among the oldest penguin fossils in the world and lived about 61 million years ago in the region of the Waipara River in New Zealand, known for their avian fossils, which were embedded in marine sand a mere 4 million years after the dinosaurs became extinct.
The bones differ significantly from those of other discoveries of the same age and indicate that the diversity of Paleocene penguins was higher than previously assumed, write scientists in their paper.
According to the researchers, the size of the gigantic penguin, makes it almost as big as Anthropornis nordenskjoeldi, the largest known fossil penguin, which lived in Antarctica around 45 to 33 million years ago, thus being much younger in geological terms.
“This shows that penguins reached an enormous size quite early in their evolutionary history, around 60 million years ago,” adds Mayr.
Moreover, the recent discovery reveals that the large penguins presumably already moved with the upright, with the waddling gait characteristic for today’s penguins.