SOUTH ISLAND, New Zealand — A penguin more than 5 feet tall and weighing as much as 176 pounds once roamed parts of the Earth millions of years ago, according to New Zealand scientists.
A science team from Canterbury Museum in Christchurch identified the huge penguin as a separate species from other gigantic penguins found in New Zealand and the Antarctic, along with other oversized extinct animals, including a giant parrot, an eagle with a 9-foot wing span and huge moa birds.
The new species, named Crossvallia waiparensis, was one and a half feet taller than an emperor penguin, the largest penguin alive today.
The newly discovered monster penguin lived during the Paleocene Epoch between 66 and 56 million years ago, the museum said in a news release on the discovery.
Canterbury Museum’s natural history research curator Dr. Vanesa De Pietri said the discovery of another giant penguin from the Paleocene Epoch provides more evidence that early penguins were huge.
"It further reinforces our theory that penguins attained a giant size very early in their evolution," De Pietri said in the news release.
The new penguin species is similar to one found in the Antarctic in 2000.
De Pietri's colleague, Dr. Paul Scofield, said the discovery also shows that New Zealand had a close relationship with Antarctica.
“When the Crossvallia species were alive, New Zealand and Antarctica were very different from today – Antarctica was covered in forest and both had much warmer climates,” Scofield said.
Scientists don't know why the giant penguins died off millions of years ago, but they do know the seas were much warmer then. The Guardian also reported that the extinction could be connected to the arrival of major marine competitors such as toothed whales and seals.
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