An amateur paleontologist unearthed a fossil leg bone in New Zealand’s South Island. It was determined that the leg bone belonged to a giant penguin fossil that was as tall as a person.
The penguin, named Crossvallia waiparensis, is 1.6 meters tall and weighs 80 kilograms. It is four times heavier and 40 centimeters tall than the emperor penguin, the largest penguin known to exist.
The penguin now joins the “Giant but Extinct Birds of New Zealand” collection, which includes the world’s largest parrot, an eagle with a wingspan of three meters, the 3.6-meter-tall moa and other giant penguins.
After being discovered by amateur paleontologist Leigh Love in Waipara, the leg bone was collected by the Canterbury Museum in Christchurch and the Senckenberg natural history museum in Frankfurt. The research team identified it as a new discovery in the scientific community.
Dr Vanesa De Pietri, curator of natural history at Canterbury Museum, said the discovery of a second giant penguin from the Paleocene was further evidence of the sheer size of ancient penguins. “This further strengthens our theory that penguins achieved enormous size early in their evolution,” she said. Currently, it is generally believed that giant penguins evolved rapidly during the Paleocene Epoch (6.6 to 5.6 billion years ago).
The penguin fossil was discovered on a cliff facing a river in Waipara. It is the fifth ancient penguin species among fossils found there. According to the researchers, the penguin’s leg bones indicate that its feet played a greater role in swimming than those of modern penguins.
It’s unclear why giant penguins disappeared from the oceans millions of years ago, but it may have something to do with the arrival of large ocean competitors such as seals and toothed whales.
The new species discovered this time is similar to the skeletal fossils of Crossvallia unienwillia, another prehistoric giant penguin discovered in Antarctica in 2000. Dr Paul Scofield, senior curator of natural history at the Canterbury Museum, said the discovery of closely related species in New Zealand and Antarctica showed connections between landmasses now separated by oceans.
He added: “New Zealand and Antarctica when Crossvallia existed were very different from what they are today – Antarctica was forested and both had warmer climates.” After the dinosaurs disappeared, large marine reptiles reptiles) also disappeared from Southern Hemisphere waters, which were much warmer than today.