Penguins are just lovely creatures. They’re one of the most popular animals in the world thanks to their unique markings and distinct walk. Yes, they are undeniably adorable, but would you still say the same thing if you bumped into a penguin that measured slightly more than the size of an average human? Well, don’t think I would either.
Scientists Discover Remains of Human-Sized Penguin in New Zealand
The largest living penguin are the Emperor penguins, most of which reside in the continent of Antarctica. These flightless birds grow up to an average 3 feet 3 inches and weigh around 66 pounds. If you think that already sounds massive for an animal, wait until you meet their ancestors.
The fossilized remains of a 6-foot penguin were discovered in the Otago region of New Zealand’s South Island. Because of its massive size, scientists believe that the human-sized penguin may have weighed around 200 lbs. This would have allowed it to swim great lengths, deeper than its modern-day counterparts.
The colossal penguin, named Kumimanu biceae, had walked the earth some 60 to 55 million years ago during the Palaeocene era.
Scientists from the Senckenberg Research Institute in Frankfurt, Germany, were behind the amazing discovery.
“We examined the wing and leg bones of this penguin and quickly realized that we were looking at a previously unknown species,” explained study lead author Gerald Mayr.
Mayr and his team managed to recover a thigh bone and femur, which measured more than six inches in length. The scientists have assumed that their gigantic size was due to the fact that these birds lacked the ability to fly.
“It was certainly perfectly able to swim and walk on land but probably spent most time in the water,” Mayr said. When it came to feeding, these penguins were likely fish eaters and effortlessly caught their prey with their long, spear-like beaks.
It is believed that the Kumimanu biceae eventually became extinct at the emergence of larger animals such as modern-day whales, seals, and dolphins.
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Mayr added, “One of the notable features of penguin evolution is the occurrence of very large species whose body size greatly exceeded that of the largest living penguins.
“Kumimanu biceae is larger than all other fossil penguins that have substantial skeletal portions preserved.”
The largest penguin ever discovered is the Palaeeudyptes klekowskii. In 2014, scientists uncovered the bird’s 37 million-year-old fossilized remains in the Antarctic. The human-sized penguin stood at an outstanding 6 feet 8 inches, large enough to look at the world’s tallest humans straight in the eye.