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. It is believed that the bird used these sites to breed since a number of bones belonging to the species were found in one area.
Kumimanu fordycei is believed to be one of the earliest species of penguin. While the monster bird’s exact diet is unknown, researchers believe it likely fed on a variety of large fish, squid, and other marine life in the area.
The researchers published their findings in the Journal of Paleontology. The study offers insight into the evolution and diversity of penguins and indicates that these monster birds once had a much larger range and variety than is seen today.
The discovery of these monster birds may also help paleontologists better understand how penguins adapted to climate change and their role in the larger ecosystem of the 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