In a surprising discovery, scientists have got hold of fossils of one of the largest penguins ever found on Earth. The ancient Penguin is believed to be from the Paleocene era, and after analyzing multitudes of jumbled bones of the creature, the scientists confirmed the penguin was extremely large, almost the size of a human. The fossilized bones were found encased in rocks in Otago, in Southern New Zealand. The scientist had to really work hard to remove the rock and collect the fossilized bones.
The penguin is so large that it is almost half times the size of the Emperor penguin, which is currently the largest living penguin species. The scientist named the prehistoric penguin as Kunimanu biceae. Giving more information about the nomenclature of the ancient penguin, co-author Alan Tennyson told, “We have named the new species Kumimanu biceae. Kumimanu means “monster bird” in Māori, and biceae honours my mother, Bice Tennyson, who fostered my interest in natural history.”
After studying the bone fossils, scientists found out that the pre-historic penguin was around 5.9 feet long and weighed almost 223 pounds. Scientists were surprised by the unexpectedly huge size of the penguin. “I was amazed at how big it actually was. It’s one of the tallest penguins that has ever been found,” stated lead author Gerald Mayr, an ornithologist at Senckenberg Research Institute and Natural History Museum Frankfurt in Germany. Mayr further said that it’s remarkable that these early forms reached such an enormous size.
Apart from the huge size, the scientists were also baffled by the extreme old age of the Penguin. From the research, they found out that K. biceae lived almost 55 to 60 million years ago and roamed the waters off New Zealand soon after dinosaurs got wiped out. Mayr informed that when they examined the wing and leg bones of this penguin, they quickly realized that they were looking at a previously unknown species.
Previously also, scientists had found fossilized evidence that suggested that ancient penguins were larger in size than their modern counterparts. But, the latest K.biceae exceeded all expectations and proved to be the biggest among all its ancient competitors. It also was almost 10 million older than the age of the previously found fossils of large-sized penguins. According to Mayr, these penguins grew in size rapidly and had some unique primitive features not seen in other Penguins. He said that these prehistoric penguins might have got extinct due to predation and also stiff competitions from emergence other larger marine predators like whales and seals.