Bones from two new penguin species found on Chatham Islands

University of Otago researchers have discovered two new species of penguins that once lived on the Chatham Islands.

The discovery was made while a PhD student examined hundreds of prehistoric and modern penguin bones.

"She found some what we call 'sub fossil penguins'," Professor Jon Waters told Newshub.

"They're not that old, just a few hundred years old. She found that they were genetically way different to any other penguins that are known in the world."

The bones came from what would have been one of the world's largest crested penguins, now named eudyptes warhami.

Also discovered was a much smaller subspecies of the yellow-eyed penguin named megadyptes antipodes richdalei.

"The remarkable thing, though, is that there are still these discoveries to make out there," Professor Waters says.

"We're still just piecing together the different pieces of the puzzle as to what New Zealand's wildlife was once like."

He says both species would have lived for millions of years on the Chatham Islands, but they died out very quickly once humans arrived.

"It really highlights how vulnerable some particular species are to the effects of humans. If something lives only on one island it can be really vulnerable to extinction, it's vulnerable to the pests that people introduce."

Their bones are now on display at Te Papa Museum in Wellington.


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