Life reconstructions of Kumimanu fordycei and Petradyptes stonehousei.Largest penguin fossil found in New Zealand

Archaeologists in New Zealand recently discovered nine new specimens of penguins from the Paleocene era, which appeared 66 million years ago and 56 million years ago. The researchers attributed the largest of these nine specimens to a new species known as Kumimanu fordichei.

Largest penguin fossil found in New Zealand

According to learning published by Cambridge University Press, based on humerus length and proximal humerus width, K. fordycei weighed somewhere between 148 kilograms (326 lb) and 159.7 kilograms (352 lb).

Ancestor of a large penguin

K. fordycei’s size isn’t the only surprising detail about the penguin. According to researchers, K. fordycei sits incredibly close to the root of the modern penguin evolutionary tree.

Researchers found a fossil from K. fordycei which weighed the bird at 300+ pounds. For reference, emperor penguins (Aptenodytes forsteri) — the largest penguins in existence today — typically weigh about 50 pounds when fully grown.

The sheer size of K. fordycei and its location in the penguin evolutionary tree suggests that penguins probably reached their evolutionary size limit early. This would explain why, like many other animals on Earth, they got smaller over millions of years.

“Given that the earliest New Zealand giant penguin fossils predate the appearance of penguins on other continents, it is tempting to speculate that penguins approached the peak of their known body size distribution while still restricted to their Zealand center of origin,” the researchers wrote in learning.

However, the researchers also acknowledge that this hypothesis remains unproven because there are “unverified gaps” in the Paleocene marine record of the Southern Hemisphere.

Other ancestors of large animals

While the discovery of K. fordycei has broken records for penguins, it is far from the first ancestor of a modern animal to make headlines.

in 2015 two giant rhinoceros fossils are found in China. Giant rhinos were the largest land animals that ever lived, and according to fossils, they could have been up to 20 feet tall and weighed up to 20 tons. These particular fossils were about 22 million years old, and the discrepancies in the bone structure allowed the researchers to classify them as a new species.

Other modern animals with giant ancestors include sloths, eagles, and even bears.

Read more: 5 of the largest animals that ever lived on Earth

Megatherium is an extinct genus of ground sloth that can grow up to 9 feet long and weigh up to 550 pounds. Unlike modern sloths, they did not live in trees, instead maneuvering on the ground and using their length to reach leaves.

Haast’s Eaglemeanwhile, it was the largest eagle that ever lived. Its wingspan could reach up to 10 feet in length and it weighed up to 33 pounds. For reference, the Harpy Eagle—the largest eagle on Earth today—grows to only 20 pounds.

And finally, on a bear with a short face is the largest bear ever to exist on Earth. Before becoming extinct around 11,000 years ago, the short bear terrorized smaller creatures in its habitat, as they could reach over 11 feet tall when standing upright. Today’s largest bears, the Kodiak brown bears, can reach up to 10 feet tall while standing.

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