'Monster' penguin discovered in New Zealand

Dr. Paul Scofield senior curator at Canterbury Museum holds the fossil a tibiotarsus left next to a similar bone of an Emperor Penguin in Christchurch New Zealand

'Monster' penguin discovered in New Zealand

New Zealand scientists announced the discovery of "Crossvallia Waiparensis"/'Monster Penguin' this week, from fossils located in Waipara, North Canterbury, last year.

As hefty as this specimen is, it's not the largest fossil penguin yet discovered, nor even the biggest fossil penguin found on New Zealand.

The research identifying the new species was published this week in Alcheringa: An Australasian Journal of Palaeontology.

"When the Crossvallia species were alive, New Zealand and Antarctica were very different from today - Antarctica was covered in forest and both had much warmer climates", he says.

The penguin joins other oversized but extinct New Zealand birds including the world's largest parrot, an eagle with a three-metre wingspan, 3.6 metre-tall moa birds and other giant penguins.

"It further reinforces our theory that penguins attained a giant size very early in their evolution".

The oceans were ripe for the picking with the lack of mega predators. But not just a penguin, a penguin that was 1.6m tall and 80kg.

"Then, for 30 million years, it was the time of the giant penguins", Mr Scofield said.

At 70 to 80 kilograms, the penguin would have weighed more than the world's average human being, who tips the scales at 62 kilograms according to a 2012 BMC Public Health study.

Paul Scofield, senior curator of natural history at Canterbury Museum, holds a leg bone from the fossil penguin and a similar bone of an emperor penguin next to a stuffed emperor penguin.

They can reach close to four feet in height, but these new monster penguins would tower over them by more than a foot.

Museum curators worked with paleontologists at the Natural History Museum in Frankfurt, Germany, to analyze the remains, ultimately determining that the massive leg bones belonged to a new extinct penguin species.

Love said he spotted the fragments in an eroding bank.

"It wasn't until I got the fossils home and did a little preparation that I realized I had something completely different than what had been found before", he told The Associated Press.

Just last week, we reported that researchers found fossil evidence of a child-size parrot in 16-million-year-old rock.

"It inspires me to go out and look for more", he said.

Amateur palaeontologist Leigh Love found the bones at the Waipara Greensand fossil site in North Canterbury in 2018.

Canterbury Museum researcher Vanesa De Pietri said it was the second giant penguin from the Paleocene era found in the area.

The newly-identified species of penguins is believed to have grown this big because they rapidly evolved evolved in the Palaeocene epoch after the dinosaurs vanished on Earth and large marine reptiles disappeared from the southern hemisphere waters.

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