Back in 2004, a fossil hunter came across the bones of a peculiar creature, which at that time had not been identified yet by both scientists and archaeologists alike. Now though, it looks like they’ve finally come up with an answer as they revealed that the bones belonged to a species of penguin.
Not just any penguin though, but a giant one that stood as tall as humans!
Named Kumimanu biceae or “monster bird”, this giant penguin would have measured around 1.77 meters (about 5 feet 10 inches) at maximum swimming length and weighed around 220 pounds.
The penguin was discovered by a curator named Alan Tennyson and his colleagues from The Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa. They discovered it on Otago beach in 2004 and dated the bones to the late Paleocene 60-55 million years ago, as described in the journal Nature Communications.
Tennyson and his co-authors Paul Scofield and Vanesa De Pietri of Canterbury Museum, and Gerald Mayr of the Senckenberg Research Institute and Natural History Museum in Frankfurt identified the fossils of both a leg bone and a flipper as a previously unknown species of a gigantic penguin.
According to Tennyson, “When we found it we didn’t know what it was, because it was completely encased in rock. But as soon as the extraction began, we realised that is was the remains of an enormous bird.”
Image Source: www.phys.org
The team said in their study that the date of this new fossil strengthens the assumption that gigantism in penguins indeed evolved after they became flightless divers.
“It’s difficult to determine exactly what it would have looked like in life, but it would have been very impressive, as tall as many people, and a very solid, muscly animal built to withstand frequent deep dives to catch its prey,” Tennyson adds. “It would not have been the kind of bird that someone could catch alive, it would have been considerably more powerful than a person.”
Kumimanu biceae may not have been the largest giant penguin fossil ever discovered, since it is only second to the Palaeeudyptes klekowskii which stood at 2 meters tall. But, it is considered the oldest.
Image Source: www.mnn.com