Human-size 'monster' penguin species discovered in New Zealand

The extinct penguin was more than 5 feet tall and weighed more than 170 pounds.
A new species of giant penguin has been identified from fossils found in New Zealand.
A new species of giant penguin has been identified from fossils found in New Zealand.Canterbury Museum

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By Elisha Fieldstadt

The remains of a human-size "monster" penguin have been discovered in New Zealand, scientists announced Wednesday.

The newly found species, Crossvallia waiparensis, is from the Paleocene Epoch — between 56 and 66 million years ago, making it one of the world’s oldest known penguin species, according to a statement from the Canterbury Museum in Christchurch.

The penguin was more than 5 feet tall and weighed more than 170 pounds, the statement said. It becomes part of a group of "gigantic, but extinct, New Zealand fauna," including the world's largest parrot, a massive eagle, a huge burrowing rat, the moa and other large penguins, scientists said.

Dr. Paul Scofield, senior curator natural history at Canterbury Museum, holds the fossil, a tibiotarsus, left, next to a similar bone of an Emperor Penguin in Christchurch, New Zealand, Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2019.Mark Baker / AP

Paleontologist Leigh Love found the bones of the penguin at the Waipara Greensand fossil site in North Canterbury last year, and they were later analyzed by staffers from the Canterbury Museum and the Natural History Museum in Frankfurt, Germany.

The Crossvallia waiparensi is the fifth and largest ancient penguin species found at the Waipara Greensand site.

“The fossils discovered there have made our understanding of penguin evolution a whole lot clearer,” paleontologist Gerald Mayr said. “There’s more to come, too — more fossils which we think represent new species are still awaiting description.”

Fossils of the mega-penguin, along with those of several other giant species, will be on display at the Canterbury Museum later this year.