Giant 'human-sized' monster penguin remains discovered in New Zealand

16 Août, 2019, 16:19 | Auteur: Anatole Charbonneau
  • Dr. Paul Scofield senior curator natural history at Canterbury Museum holds the fossil a tibiotarsus top next to a similar bone of an Emperor Penguin in Christchurch New Zealand Wednesday Aug. 14 2019

In a paper published this week by Alcheringa: An Australian Journal of Paleontology, the team revealed C. waiparensis's closest known relative: fellow Paleocene species Crossvallia unienwillia-IDed from a fossilized partial skeleton found almost 20 years ago in Antarctica.

Described this week in Alcheringa: An Australasian Journal of Palaeontology, the new species stood roughly 5 feet and 3 inches tall and weighed almost 180 pounds.

"It further reinforces our theory that penguins attained a giant size very early in their evolution", she said.

The "monster" penguin's fossilized remains were found in 2018 by an amateur paleontologist in North Canterbury, in the northeast of South Island, Efe news reported.

The newly described aquatic beast, dubbed Crossvallia waiparensis, measured 5 feet, 3 inches (1.6 meters) tall, about the height of an adult woman.

Weighing in around 15 lbs., the 3-foot-tall bird, named Heracles inexpectatus, had a massive beak capable of cracking most food sources (including other fowl).

"At the time giant penguins evolved, the large marine reptiles just had become extinct", Gerald Mayr, another author of the new study, told the BBC.

More details of the research were published in the journal Alcheringa: An Australasian Journal of Palaeontology.

It is not clear why the giant penguins disappeared from the oceans millions of years ago but it may be linked to the arrival of large marine competitors such as seals and toothed whales.

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Giant animals are canon in Kiwi history: Among the colossal eagle, enormous burrowing bat, jumbo moa (nine species of now-extinct flightless bird), and hulking penguins lived the world's largest parrot.

According to researchers, the penguin's leg bones suggest its feet played a greater role in swimming than those of modern penguins.

"When the Crossvallia species were alive, New Zealand and Antarctica were very different from today - Antarctica was covered in forest and both had much warmer climates", Paul Scofield, senior curator at the Canterbury Museum, said in a news release. Scientists say the lack of predators allowed such birds to thrive.

The ancient avian came to light thanks to an amateur palaeontologist named Leigh Love, who found the bird's leg bones a year ago at the Waipara Greensand fossil site in North Canterbury.

Love said he spotted the fragments in an eroding bank. "We can see already it hasn't been accepted yet by most of our little penguin family", Salach said.

The monster penguin fossil, a tarsometatarsus, left, is displayed next to a similar bone for an emperor penguin in Christchurch, New Zealand, Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2019. He said one challenge was trying to determine the overall size of the birds from skeleton fragments, but added that it was a challenge everybody in the field faced.

But while this newfound species was huge, it isn't the largest penguin on record.

They were then analysed by a team including Dr Scofield, fellow Canterbury Museum curator Dr Vanesa De Pietri, and Dr Gerald Mayr from the Senckenberg Natural History Museum in Germany.

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