A newly discovered fossil shows that ancient New Zealand was once home to a human-sized species of penguins. A research report was released earlier this week in the journal Nature Communications to discuss the findings.
Ancient New Zealand Used to Have Big Inhabitants
This recent find is a fossil, the bones of which depict a penguin that was about five feet and seven inches tall. This puts it on par with the average adult man. It is estimated to have weighed approximately 223 pounds.
The new species has been dubbed Kumimanu biceae. It would have easily outsized the largest still living penguin species today, the emperor penguin, which stands at about four feet tall.
Researchers believe that these human-sized birds called ancient New Zealand their home for about 56 million to 60 million years ago when they presumably swam to other islands and began living elsewhere. That makes it one of the oldest penguin species, and could potentially shed a lot of light on their early development.
Scientists have long been curious about how exactly penguins evolved, given how different they are from most other birds, including their close relatives like the albatross, petrel, and the auk.
According to Gerald Mayr, a paleontologist at the Senckenberg Research Institute in Germany and lead author of the study, we already had evidence that early penguins were “enormously large,”. He considers that the Kumimanu biceae merely reinforces that trend toward gigantism.
Believe it or not, this is not even the first case where scientists believed to have discovered penguins that were human-sized. Back in 2014, two bone fragments dating back 34 million years were discovered.
Some researchers believe that these used to belong to a penguin that was six feet tall. However, the small sample size and lack of further evidence obviously put that guess to doubt.
Still, this latest find may mean that this theory was not as far from the truth as initially believed.
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