Last updated September 13, 2019 at 3:13 pm
A giant penguin species has been discovered in New Zealand, standing 1.6 metres tall and weighing 80kg. But no need to worry, it lived 60 million years ago.
For such a small country, they keep finding big stuff in New Zealand.
Barely a week after unveiling a 1 metre tall parrot, scientists have revealed a species of giant penguin that stood about 1.6 metres tall and weighed up to 80 kilograms.
Compared to an average person, it would have almost stood eye to eye.
Named Crossvallia waiparensis, the penguin lived between 66 and 56 million years ago – just after the cretaceous extinction event, the asteroid which wiped out the dinosaurs and three-quarters of all life on the planet.
For scientists, the discovery “reinforces our theory that penguins attained a giant size very early in their evolution,” says Canterbury Museum curator Vanesa De Pietri.
One of the largest penguin species
It is one is one of the world’s oldest known penguin species, as well as one of the largest, towering over the largest living penguin today, the Emperor Penguin.
Compared to the penguin’s traditional foe – Batman – the newly discovered species would have stood just a touch shorter.
The fossils of the penguin were found in Waipara, North Canterbury, by amateur palaeontologist Leigh Love.
De Pietri, colleague Paul Scofield, and Gerald Mayr from Germany’s Senckenberg Natural History Museum analysed the fossilised bones and concluded not only that they had a new penguin, but that it had Antarctic connections.
Their findings are published in Alcheringa: An Australasian Journal of Palaeontology.
The newly discovered penguin is likely to be closely related to another species found during the Paleocene, Crossvallia unienwillia. The fossilised partial skeleton of that species was found in the Cross Valley in Antarctica in 2000, but stood at “just” 1.4 metres tall.
The leg bones of both Crossvallia penguins suggest their feet played a greater role in swimming than those of modern penguins. It is also possible they hadn’t yet adapted to standing upright like modern penguins.
“When the Crossvallia species were alive, New Zealand and Antarctica were very different from today,” Scofield says. “Antarctica was covered in forest and both had much warmer climates.”
Battle of the giant penguins
“Giant penguins developed shortly after the mass extinction near the end of the Cretaceous, approx. 66 million years ago. It is possible that the disappearance of large marine reptiles enabled the penguins to explore new ecological niches,” Mayr commented previously.
The two Crossvallia species existed around the same time to a third giant penguin species, Kumimanu biceae. Discovered in 2017, Kumimanu would have stood 1.7 metres tall and weighed up to 100 kilograms.
However, all three penguins were overshadowed by a 2 metre tall “colossus penguin” species discovered in Antarctica in 2014. However the colossus Palaeeudyptes klekowskii lived around 20 million years later.