Ancient penguin the size of a human discovered in North Canterbury

A penguin next to a human.
The penguin. Photo credit: Supplied/Canterbury Museum

Scientists have discovered a massive penguin that would have been as tall as an adult.

The Crossvallia waiparensis would have been around 1.6m tall and weighed up to 70 to 80kg when it walked the earth between 66 and 56 million years ago during the Paleocene Epoch.

Amateur palaeontologist Leigh Love found the bones in the Waipara Greensand fossil site in North Canterbury in 2018.

Fossil preparator Al Mannering got them ready for study and the bones were analysed by Canterbury Museum curators Dr Paul Scofield and Dr Vanesa De Pietri, and Dr Gerald Mayr of Senckenberg Natural History Museum in Frankfurt, Germany.

The team published a paper about the discovery this week in Alcheringa: An Australasian Journal of Palaeontology.

Dr Scofield said the bones show New Zealand's close connection 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."

Crossvallia waiparensis is the fifth ancient penguin species to have been uncovered at the Waipara Greensand site.

 The Crossvallia waiparensis fossils will go on display at Canterbury museum later this year, alongside fossils from other giant species.


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