Ancient Penguin Was As Tall As A Human

Posted: Dec 17 2017, 12:51pm CST | by , in News | Latest Science News

 
Ancient Penguin was as Tall as a Human
Credit: Gerald Mayr/Senckenberg Research Institute

The bird was more than 5 feet tall and weighed around 100 kilograms, making it one of the largest penguins ever to have lived.

Newly unearthed fossils have revealed a penguin species that was as tall as a grown human. The fossil remains of giant penguin were recovered from Moeraki Formation in New Zealand and are estimated to be 60 million years old, a time when first flightless birds appeared.

Analysis suggests that the creature was nearly 5 feet, 10 inches tall and weighed more than 100 kilograms, making it one of the largest penguins ever existed.

"That's about as tall as a medium-sized man," said lead study author Gerald Mayr, a paleontologist at the Senckenberg Research Institute and Natural History Museum in Frankfurt, Germany.

"This particular specimen is one of the largest known fossil penguins."

Researchers have named the penguin Kumimanu biceae. The name comes from Maori words, "kumi" a mythological monster and “manu" for "bird. The remaining part “biceae” honors the mother of one of the authors of the study.

Although many oversize penguin fossils have been discovered over the years, most of them belonged to later eras. It led researchers to believe that penguins gradually evolved into larger species. However, new discovery shows penguins grew tall very rapidly after the mass extinction 66 million years ago.

“We already knew penguins were around, and flightless, just a few million years after the extinction,” said Daniel T. Ksepka, a paleontologist at the Bruce Museum in Greenwich, who was not involved in the new study. “The new fossil shows they achieved immense sizes very rapidly as well, which is cool.”

The giant penguins also went extent millions of years later. Researchers suggest that they could not survive tough competition exerted by other developing species. As large marine mammals like toothed whales and seals emerged, groups such as giant penguins had no longer enough food and they ultimately died out, leaving behind only the smaller species of penguins we see today.

The biggest modern-day penguin is Emperor penguin that lives on Antarctica ice and stands less than 4 feet tall.

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