What do we know about this ancient giant penguin discovered in New Zealand?

What do we know about this ancient giant penguin discovered in New Zealand?

In 2006, students at the Hamilton Junior Naturopath Club were searching for sea urchin fossils in Kauhia Harbor, a natural bay in the Waikato region of New Zealand. Instead, they found an ancient giant penguin.

penguins (Sphenisciformes) provides one of the most comprehensive and persistent fossil records of all groups of birds, providing researchers with an ever-evolving understanding of the biogeography and evolution of wing diving. However, our knowledge of the exact proportions of the body of birds from the “stem group” is still pockmarked, especially due to the lack of articulated specimens. In the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, a team of researchers describes a new species discovered in the Glen Massey Formation, New Zealand. It is one of the most complete giant penguin skeletons ever discovered.

Big beak and long legs

Its length was about 1.4 meters. For comparison, the largest species of penguin living today is the Emperor Penguin.Aptenodytes foresteri) can reach a length of 1.2 meters and a weight of up to 45 kilograms. It was the remains of this new specimen Discovered in 2006 Near Kawhi Harbor by young fossil hunters from the Hamilton Junior Naturalist Club (JUNATS), a natural history club in Hamilton, New Zealand, for children aged ten to eighteen.

At the time, the fossil was at risk of damage due to ocean erosion. Also, local club officials allowed the excavation of the fossil, which was then handed over to the Waikato Museum in 2017. The scientists then measured and scanned the skeleton so they could develop a 3D model. The researchers then compared the bird’s bones to those of other giant penguins.

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According to these measurements, it would already be a new species. The animal that lived there Between 27 and 35 million years old In present-day New Zealand, he was just set foot diver. It was distinguished by a long beak and long legs. According to Chris Templar, Head of Paleontology, such long legs would have been possible K. Waewaero Swim faster or dive deeper than other known penguin species.

bone representation foot diver And compare their size with the size of the emperor penguin. Credit: Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology

Discover other giants

Note that if foot diver It was already imposing, it is Not the biggest penguin ever discovered. Two years ago, on the South Island of New Zealand, a team from the Canterbury Museum identified the remains of an eighty-kilogram animal that was just over 1.6 meters long at that time (between 66 and 56 million years ago). baptized Crossphalia and iparensisThe animal can only be identified by the discovery of the bones of its legs.

Other species were larger. We are especially thinking about Comimano Bessia which measures 1.77 meters to about a hundred kilograms, and is also developing at the same time, or even Palaeeudyptes klekowskii Which amounted to about two meters to about 115 kilograms in the balance. The latter could have evolved in Antarctica 55-34 million years ago.

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