Researchers working in New Zealand hand have announced they have discovered a previously unknown species of pre-historic penguin that swam the waters off the coast of the country. The prehistoric penguin lived between 55 and 60 million years ago and stood about 5 feet 10 inches tall and could weigh as much as 220 pounds. The giant flightless bird was the size of an average human.
The largest modern penguin is the Emperor penguin and it stands only 4-feet tall. The newly discovered penguin species has been called Kumimanu bicea translating to “monster bird.” Previous evidence of giant penguins existed, but the new discovery is much older than the others.
Previously known prehistoric giant penguin species included the Anthropornis nordenskjoeldi that was about the same size as the New Zealand discovery and lived in Antarctica about 33 to 45 million years ago. Another giant penguin species is called Icadyptes salasi and stood nearly five feet tall. That species lived in what is now Peru about 36 million years ago.
The scientists say that the giant penguin was in the seas about 20 million years before whales hit the scene. The team thinks that whales, walruses, and seals might be why the giant penguins went extinct.
Today only the smaller penguins popular at zoos around the world are left. The giant penguins were around a few million years after the dinosaurs went extinct.