The fossil of an ancient, man-sized penguin has been found in Christchurch, New Zealand. Measuring in at 1.77 metres tall – roughly 5ft 10 – and weighing in at around 101kg it would have roughly the same stats as the average American man.
Whilst not a complete skeleton the bones found – which include a six-inch thigh bone, breast bone, shoulder blade and three wing bones – were enough for researchers to infer the colossal size of this creature.
This new species has been named Kimimanu Biceae, from the Maori words ‘kumi’ which was a large mythological creature and ‘manu’ which means bird. The word ‘biceae’ is in fact homage to the mother of one of the senior researchers Alan Tennyson, whose mother Beatrice Tennyson was known as ‘Brice’.
The penguin originally evolved from flying birds but somewhere along the line they lost the ability to fly and instead became strong swimmers. Some researchers suggest that this is the point that these penguins started to develop and grow to their gigantic size, enjoying a subtropical environment with other sea creatures of the time.
The giant penguin became extinct roughly 20 million years ago. It is unclear what the exact cause of their extinction was but it is widely believed that the arrival of other marine animals such as seals and toothed whales caused competition for food, a competition that the giant penguin ultimately lost.
This is not the first example of a giant penguin fossil to ever have been found but it is one of the oldest at 55 – 60 million years old. Previous finds had been discovered and dated to roughly 20 – 50 million years ago, but anything older such as this fossil is extremely rare.
However, as large as this penguin would have been it is still not the largest ever found. The Palaeeudyptes Klekowskii, aptly known as the ‘Colossus Penguin’ a species of penguin discovered in Antarctica could have been even bigger, measuring two metres high and weighing 115kg.
Piecing together fossils of giant penguins it is believed that they would have not been as cute as their modern day counterparts. They would have been slimmer, had longer beaks and would have been a brownish colour rather than the black and white colouring we are used to.
It’s impressive to think that giant penguins the size of humans could have once stalked the lands of New Zealand, almost like ‘Planet of the Apes’ (but with penguins, obviously). As new, and bigger fossils are found the more fascinating the Palaeolithic life of giant creatures such as the Kimimanu Biceae and Palaeeudyptes Klekowskii becomes.
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