Fossils show giant penguin once roamed New Zealand

Scientists have discovered the fossilized remains one of the largest penguins to ever roam the earth. The giant penguin stood 52 inches tall making about 4'4" tall. By comparison the largest living species of penguins today is the Emperor penguin about 3'7" tall. The extinct penguin lived somewhere between 24 and 27 million years ago New Zealand was mostly submerged. During that time, New Zealand would've been mostly rocky outcrops.

The giant penguin is dubbed Kairuku and the first fossils of the penguin were found embedded in a cliff at Waimate in the South Island in 1977. Additional remains were discovered later and the first reconstructed penguin was completed in 2009. The ancient penguins could weigh as much as 132 pounds, which is twice the weight of the Emperor.

The scientists describe the extinct penguin as "elegant" by penguin standards with a slender body, long flippers, and short thick legs. According to the scientists, the bird's body allowed it to dive deeper and swim further than modern counterparts swim. Scientists postulate that the penguin could've gone extinct from an increase in predators or possible climate change.

[via AFP]