Researchers discovered the fossil remains of the prehistoric penguin in New Zealand’s Otago region, sizing fossil fragments that included flippers, body, and leg bones to reveal the species had the same proportions as a medium-sized human man with a height of about six feet and a weight of roughly 220 pounds.
The new species, which is named Kumimanu biceae and translates to “monster bird” in Māori, roamed the Earth some 55 million years back, making it one of the oldest species of giant penguins to be found so far, researchers said.
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The study, which was published Tuesday in Nature Communications, is an exciting new twist on what’s been previously known by scientists regarding when giant penguins existed.
While the species is not the first giant penguin to be found, researchers pointed out in the paper that they were typically much younger species.
The rare finding of the older species reveals that some penguins could have become giant in the early stages of evolution for penguins, becoming flightless and diving into the oceans instead.
Researchers said this giant species were likely wiped out by large marine mammals like whales and seals that either ate them or out-competed them for food in the oceans, leaving us with the smaller penguins we’ve come to know so well.