A new study of ancient fossils reveals just how big some penguins used to be. Researchers say they discovered the remains of a giant species of penguin in New Zealand that was more than six feet tall, making the “monster bird” the largest penguin ever to exist, at least that humanity knows of.
Researchers named the species Kumimanu fordycei, and it lived around 55-60 million years ago. Researchers initially estimated the monster bird was 3 . 5 feet (1. 06 meters) tall. However, a new analysis of the bones revealed that the bird was closer to 6. 2 feet tall (1. 9 meters) and weighed up to 350 pounds (158 kilograms).
In comparison, the largest living species of penguin, Emperor Penguins, are up to 4. 1 feet (1. 25 meters) tall and weigh up to 90 pounds (41 kg), making this discovery massive in more ways than one.
Researchers say the fossilized bones of the monster bird were found in two locations on New Zealand’s South Island. Because a large number of bone fragments belonging to this species were discovered in the same area, it is possible that the bird was using these locations to breed.
Kumimanu fordycei is believed to be one of the earliest species of penguin. Researchers don’t know the exact diet of the giant penguin, but they believe that it ate large fish and squid along with other marine animals in the region.
The researchers published their findings in the Journal of Paleontology. This study provides insight into penguin evolution and diversity and shows that the monster birds used to have a wider range of species than they do today.
The discovery of these giant birds could help paleontologists to better understand the adaptations of penguins to climate change, and how they fit into the ecosystem of the southern hemisphere’s ancient Southern Hemisphere.
This isn’t the first time scientists have discovered evidence of massive birds roaming Earth, either. And it gives humanity great insight into how these creatures used to live and roam our planet.
While Kumimanu fordycei is long gone, its discovery has opened the door to more questions about the evolution of penguins and their place in the world’s ancient food chain. In the meantime, perhaps the largest colony of penguins ever spotted can teach us more about these animals