New Zealand was once home to a penguin as tall as a human
Fossils have recently been uncovered of bones that once belonged to a giant penguin. The remains suggest that the bird stood at about 1.6 metres (5 foot 3) tall, but reached 1.77 metres (almost 5 foot 10) when it stretched out in the water. This man-sized penguin probably weighed around 100 kilograms (220 pounds).
The new discovery dwarfs the emperor – the largest penguin alive today – which is around 1.2 metres (4 feet) tall.
The fossils were first found a decade ago, but the hard rock meant that it took experts a long time to extract and examine the bones. Analysis of the fossils revealed that they’re between 56 and 60 million years old, only slightly younger than the earliest known penguin bones. These first penguins were much smaller, but some species rapidly evolved to grow to twice the size.
It’s thought that the largest penguins lost out with the appearance of aquatic mammals like seals and toothed whales. The new arrivals would have competed with the birds for food and breeding spots, and may even have eaten them. Smaller penguins managed to avoid the competition and survived to produce the flightless birds we know and love today.
Feature image property of Gerald Mayr