Fossils from a race of giant penguins have been found in New Zealand. The Kairuku grebneffi stood a little taller than four feet tall, making it the tallest penguin species ever known, and lived more than 25 million years ago.
North Carolina State University paleontologist Daniel Ksepka said that the first fossils of the ancient birds were discovered in the 1970s and researchers have continued to find specimens as recently as two months ago. Ksepka said that the find expands the ancient penguin population to five species. Ksepka said:
“In the past we would have thought there were one or two species living in the area. Now we know there were five.”
Live Science reports that the Kairuku grebneffi was a tall and lanky bird with unusually long flippers. The ancient penguin did have short, stumpy legs like modern penguins. Ksepka said that ancient penguin species also differed from modern penguins because they used to live side by side with one another. Modern penguins in New Zealand separate themselves into different habitats.
“Penguins are so interesting. They’re so different than other birds that there’s a lot we can do in the fossil record to try to understand how they became what they are.”
The discovery of the Kairuku grebneffi is the second big penguin discovery in recent months. A rare white penguin was recently discovered in Antarctica.