Fossils of the giant penguin have successfully been reconstructed; Research

Penguins in artist's rendition

Researchers have found and reconstructed the fossils of the tallest and fattest penguin in New Zealand.

This research has been published online in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.

[hana-code-insert name=’StumbleUpon’ /][hana-code-insert name=’Reddit’ /] Researchers have used bones from two separate examples of the ancient birds while taking the bones of the modern penguin as a guide. They started working on the fossils after finding that the body shapes were different from the other known penguins. 35 years had been spent in reconstruction of giant fossil penguin as the fossils were found in 1977.

Researchers have showed that 25 million years old Kairuku penguin were tall with 1.2 meters of height. They had elongated beaks, large flippers and weighed about 130 pounds. Kairuku is a Maori word closely meaning “diver who returns with food”. Researchers have suggested that New Zealand was an attractive location for penguins both in terms of food and safety.

It has been suggested that the penguins were among the five largest species in New Zealand during the Oligocene time period.

“Kairuku was an elegant bird by penguin standards, with a slender body and long flippers, but short, thick legs and feet,” said co-author Dr. Dan Ksepka, from North Carolina State University, US.

“If we had done a reconstruction by extrapolating from the length of its flippers, it would have stood over 6ft tall. In reality, Kairuku was around 4ft 2ins tall or so.”


Ksepka, D.T., R.E. Fordyce, T. Ando, & C.M. Jones. New Fossil Penguins (Aves, Sphenisciformes) from the Oligocene of New Zealand Reveal the Skeletal Plan of Stem Penguins. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, 2012; 32(2): 235-254

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