GIANT PENGUINS MAY HAVE ROAMED THE EARTH ALONGSIDE DINOSAURS
Here’s one penguin you definitely wouldn’t want to p-p-pick up! Researchers have discovered a 61-million-year-old fossil belonging to a Waimanu – a giant penguin that stood 1.5m (4ft 11in) tall.
The fossil was unearthed near the Waipara River in New Zealand’s Canterbury region, and dates back to the Palaeocene era. The bones differ significantly in structure from other Waimanu fossils discovered from the same period, indicating that there was a great deal of diversity amongst them. This could mean the evolution of penguins started much earlier than previously thought, perhaps even during the age of dinosaurs.
“This shows that penguins reached an enormous size quite early in their evolutionary history, around 60 million years ago,” said researcher Gerald Mayr. “What sets this fossil apart are the obvious differences compared to the previously known penguin remains from this period of geological history.
“The leg bones we examined show that during its lifetime, the newly described penguin was significantly larger than its previously described relatives,” Mayr continued. “Moreover, it belongs to a species that is more closely related to penguins from later time periods.”
The animal also likely differed from its more primitive relatives in another key way: it moved with the upright, waddling gait characteristic of modern penguins.
Prehistoric penguins were much larger than the birds we know and love today