Scientists discovered fossils of a human-sized penguin that were sheathed in a rock on a New Zealand beach. It was about 1.77 meters in height, which is equivalent to the average height of an American man.
The descriptions of the discovery were published in the journal Nature Communications on Tuesday. It was led by Gerald Mayr, paleontologists at the Senckenberg Research Institute in Frankfurt in Germany, and other colleagues, according to New York Times.
Mayr said that the ancient penguin found was as tall as a medium-sized man. It weighed about 100 kg or 220 pounds. It is known that the tallest penguin species that are alive today are Emperor penguins, which are about 1.2 meters in height when fully grown and weigh about 22 to 45 kg or 49 to 99 pounds.
The scientists named the new species of penguin Kumimanu biceae. It was derived from the Maori words “Kumi,” which means a huge mythological monster, and “manu,” meaning bird. Meanwhile, the biceae came from the name of the mother of Alan Tennyson, a senior researcher on the team. Her name is Beatrice Tennyson, also referred to as “Bice.”
According to the researchers, the fossils were about 56 million- to 66-million-years-old. The ancient penguin was probably brownish and had a longer beak, which was quite different from the usual black and white coloring penguin.
Mayr said that it would most likely have been slimmer too and not so cute looking. He further said that it is one of the tallest penguins that has ever been found.
An expert said that the new discovery suggests that the penguins “got big very rapidly” after the mass extinction 66 million years ago, which is best known for annihilating the dinosaurs.
How did these huge ancient penguins become extinct? Mayr said that the scientists theorized that they died out when large marine mammals, such as toothed whales and seals showed up and provided competition for safe breeding places and food. He further said that these creatures may also have hunted the big penguins, as noted by Phys.org.
Meanwhile, in 2014, another species of giant penguin was discovered. It may have been taller than Kumimanu biceae. It was named Palaeeudyptes klekowskii, and was about two meters in height and weighed 115 kg, according to The Guardian.