The penguin is an awesome bird – but it would have been comparatively small in contrast with some of the enormous penguins that lived in the distant past. In a paper issued today, unveil an ancient giant penguin which might have been the largest ever to live. An international team of investigators have declared the discovery of an earlier unknown species of old penguin.
The bird wiggled around off the east coast of New Zealand between 55 and 60 million years ago. The scientists guess that it apparently weighed about 220 pounds and was approximately 5 feet 10 inches tall.
“That’s nearly as tall as a medium-sized man,” states Gerald Mayr, a palaeontologist at the Senckenberg Research Institute and Natural History Museum in Frankfurt and the author of the latest study issued today in Nature Communications. “This particular specimen is one of the biggest known fossil penguins.”
The most significant living penguin, on the other hand, the Emperor penguin, is a good bit shorter around 4 feet. The investigators have named the new species Kumimanu biceae, which means ‘monster bird’ in the Maori language.
The new finding is cool, says Julia Clarke, a palaeontologist at the University of Texas, Austin, who wasn’t included in the research. While enormous penguins may seem odd to us, they were pretty standard millions of years ago. Just, for example, Anthropornis nordenskjoeldi, which was related in size to the lately found species. It existed in Antarctica between 33 to 45 million years ago. Then there was Icadyptes salasi, which was nearly 5 feet tall and lived in what is now Peru approximately 36 million years ago.
What these new species indicate is that penguins developed to be big very early in their evolution, states Ewan Fordyce, a palaeontologist at the University of Otago, New Zealand, who wasn’t included in the new research. “It’s a several million years after the extinction of the dinosaurs,” states Fordyce. With the enormous reptiles gone, it may have opened “new ecological opportunities” to birds like penguins, enabling them to break through “a glass ceiling of evolutionary size,” he says.
The oceans may also have allowed penguins to get so big. “Giant penguins were occupying the seas about 20 million years before whales entered the oceans,” Julia Clarke, a palaeontologist at the University of Texas, Austin says. No whales, no seals, no marine mammals.
And scientists think that large marine mammals — whales, walruses, seals — are why giant penguins eventually became extinct, leaving us with the smaller, cuter birds we all adore.