Mon­ster pen­guins swam New Zealand oceans

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - NATION & WORLD - By Nick Perry

WELLING­TON, New Zealand — Sci­en­tists in New Zealand said they’ve found fos­silized bones from an ex­tinct mon­ster pen­guin that was about the size of an adult hu­man and swam the oceans some 60 mil­lion years ago.

They said the pre­vi­ously undis­cov­ered species is be­lieved to have stood 5 feet 2 inches tall and weighed up to 176 pounds. It’s be­lieved to have been one of sev­eral species of gi­ant pen­guins that thrived soon after di­nosaurs died out.

The find­ings were pub­lished last week in Alcheringa: An Aus­tralasian Jour­nal of Palaeon­tol­ogy.

Paul Scofield, a co-au­thor of the pa­per and se­nior cu­ra­tor at the Can­ter­bury Mu­seum, said the dis­cov­ery is sig­nif­i­cant be­cause the species is sim­i­lar to an­other gi­ant pen­guin found in Antarc­tica in 2000 and helps show a con­nec­tion be­tween the two re­gions dur­ing the Pa­le­ocene Epoch.

He said that fol­low­ing the ex­tinc­tion of di­nosaurs, marine rep­tiles and gi­gan­tic fish, it seemed there was an evo­lu­tion­ary op­por­tu­nity for pen­guins to thrive and grow in size.

“The oceans were ripe for the pick­ing with the lack of mega preda­tors,” Scofield said. “It looks like what was go­ing on was that pen­guins were just start­ing to ex­ploit that niche.”

But he said the gi­ant pen­guins be­came ex­tinct within 30 mil­lion years as large marine mam­mals be­gan rul­ing the waters.

The mon­ster pen­guins, named Cross­val­lia wai­paren­sis, would have been about twice the weight and 1 foot taller than the largest type of pen­guins alive to­day, em­peror pen­guins.

Scofield said the leg bones in­di­cated the mon­ster pen­guin’s feet may have played a big­ger role in swim­ming than is the case with pen­guins to­day.

New Zealand is also be­lieved to have been the site of many gi­gan­tic birds that later be­came ex­tinct.


This il­lus­tra­tion shows the ap­prox­i­mate height of a gi­ant pen­guin, a “cross­val­lia wai­paren­sis” next to a hu­man be­ing.

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