'Monster bird': Remains of man-sized penguin discovered in New Zealand

The fossilised bones of an ancient penguin the size of a pro-wrestler have been discovered in New Zealand

The fossilised bones of an ancient penguin the size of a pro-wrestler have been discovered in New Zealand

Penguins are pretty darn cute. It also belongs to a totally different branch of the penguin family tree than basically every other giant penguin.

WASHINGTON-Scientists have unearthed in New Zealand fossil bones of what might be the heavyweight champion of the penguin world, a bird almost 6 feet tall that thrived 55 to 60 million years ago, relatively soon after the demise of the dinosaurs.

Scientists have discovered a new species of giant, human-sized penguins.

The new species, which is named Kumimanu biceae and translates to "monster bird" in Māori, roamed the Earth some 55 million years back, making it one of the oldest species of giant penguins to be found so far, researchers said. Another giant penguin species is called Icadyptes salasi and stood almost five feet tall.

The fossil of a giant penguin
The fossilised bones of an ancient penguin the size of a pro-wrestler have been discovered in New Zealand

The new discovery shows penguins "got big very rapidly" after the mass extinction of 66 million years ago that's best known for killing off the dinosaurs, he wrote in an email. And considering its size, it was probably a fearsome underwater predator, likely having the ability to stay underwater for almost an hour.

Gigantism in penguins - where the size exceeds that of the 1.2m-tall emperor penguin (Aptenodytes foresteri), the largest living species - is not a palaeontological revelation.

K. biceae doesn't quite reach the considerable heights of the P. klekowskii, but it does easily tower over now living penguins species and is on par with some other giant penguins. Still, they told The Guardian that it was one of the tallest penguins to have ever been found.

Fossils from New Zealand have revealed a giant penguin that was as big as a grown man, roughly the size of the captain of the Pittsburgh Penguins.

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The humerus (top) and a bone from the shoulder girdle (coracoid, bottom) of the Paleocene giant penguin Kumimanu biceae, compared to the corresponding bones of one of the largest fossil penguins known to date (Pachydyptes ponderosus from the Eocene in New Zealand) and those of an Emperor Penguin (Aptendodytes forsteri).

Mayr and the other researchers compared the bones to some of the other ancient penguins to get a sense of similarities and sizes.

While the species is not the first giant penguin to be found, researchers pointed out in the paper that they were typically much younger species.

Caption: Artistic reconstruction of Kumimanu biceae in size comparison to a human diver.

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That event played a big role in penguin history. After close examination, a team of scientists from Germany and New Zealand determined that the fossil species was new to science, and absolutely huge.

"It's a common myth that penguins only live in very cold environments such as the Antarctic region", Tennyson said.

As mammals turned to the ocean, they may have been able to beat the giant penguins for resources, including land for breeding.

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