Fossils of a 340-Pound Giant Penguin Found in New Zealand

The bones of two new penguin species from 50 million years ago have been discovered by paleontologists.

More than three times the size of the biggest penguins alive today, the largest penguin known to have ever waddled the Earth weighed in at 340 pounds. A research published on Wednesday in the Journal of Paleontology claims that the enormous, flightless seabird lived more than 50 million years ago in the waters around New Zealand.

On an Unknown Zealand beach, researchers discovered bones from this enormous penguin, which they called Kumimanu fordycei, as well as those of a different new species.

According to co-author Daniel Field of the Department of Earth Sciences at the University of Cambridge, "Fossils provide us with evidence of the history of life, and sometimes that evidence is very startling." "57 million years ago, Kumimanu fordycei would have been an absolutely astounding sight on the shores of New Zealand."

Between 2016 and 2017, Alan Tennyson, a paleontologist at the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, found the fossils inside stones that had been torn open by the tide. In addition to the bones of K. fordycei, he also discovered five specimens of Petradyptes stonehousei, a fossil of the well-known gigantic penguin Kumimanu biceae, and two little humeri from a lesser-known species of penguin.

By employing laser scanners to recreate the bones, Tennyson and his colleagues were able to match the fossils to those of other flying and diving bird species. The scientists estimated the weight of the ancient birds by measuring the measurements of hundreds of current penguin bones and their flipper size.

The biggest penguin species still living, the emperor penguin, weighs between 55 and 100 pounds. P. stonehousei, according to researchers, weighed roughly 110 pounds. According to Live Science's Harry Baker, K. fordycei, at nearly 340 pounds, broke the previous record for the heaviest penguin, which belonged to the 256-pound Palaeeudyptes klekowskii, which lived in Antarctica some 37 million years ago.

After the dinosaurs were extinct, numerous kinds of enormous penguins lived in Australia and New Zealand, in sharp contrast to the comparatively tiny penguins of today. According to the statement, penguins may have been able to travel from New Zealand to other regions of the world because their increased body size would have helped save heat in chilly seas.

The size of the penguins would have also served as a deterrent to predators. According to Jack Tamisiea of the New York Times, both new species lived in the vicinity of New Zealand at a time when few larger animals would have bothered them. The asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs also wiped out most marine reptiles, and the ancestors of seals and whales were still living on land.

According to the Times' first author Daniel Ksepka of the Bruce Museum in Greenwich, Connecticut, "If you're a small one-pound penguin, a gull can just take your head apart." A 300-pound penguin, meanwhile, won't be concerned if a sea gull lands nearby since it will just smash it.

According to Live Science, penguins attained their maximum physical size fairly early in their evolutionary history compared to certain mammals—possibly not long after they stopped being able to fly some 60 million years ago. In addition, their early flippers were less like paddles than those of their contemporary descendants. That makes sense, according to Julia Clarke, a paleontologist at the University of Texas at Austin who was not involved in the study, who told the Times that they likely still possessed some traits of their flying forebears.

The statement from Field describes "K. fordycei" as "one of the most interesting fossil birds ever identified" due to "its enormous size and the fragmentary nature of its fossil remains." Hopefully, further information about the biology of this magnificent early penguin will be revealed by new fossil finds.