Long-Legged Penguin Fossils Add to Rich Record

The discovery of a complete fossilised ancient giant penguin skeleton in the upper Kawhia Harbour, Waikato is helping scientists fill in some gaps in natural history, Sofia Quaglia reports for The Guardian.

Scientists have concluded that the penguin is between 27.3 and 34.6m years old and is from a time when much of Waikato was under water, according to Daniel Thomas, a senior lecturer in zoology from Massey’s School of Natural and Computational Sciences.

“The penguin is similar to the Kairuku giant penguins first described but has much longer legs,” Thomas said. That’s why it’s been called waewaeroa, which is Māori for “long legs”. Having legs this long would have made this species much taller than other ancient giant penguins, and it is estimated that it was about 1.6 metres long from toe to beak tip and 1.4 metres tall when standing up, Quaglia writes.

“How and why did penguins become giant, and why aren’t there any giants left? Well-preserved fossils like this can help us address these questions, Hamilton junior naturalist club’s president Mike Safey said.

Original article by Sofia Quaglia, The Guardian, September 16, 2021.

Photo by Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.

Tags: Guardian (The)  Kawhia Harbour  paleontology  Penguins  

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