Researchers in New Zealand have found fossilized remains belonging to an ancient, human-sized penguin that swam through the oceans millions of years ago. These enormous penguins were, presumably, over five-feet in height and approximately 176 pounds. The scientists believe it was one of the many species of giant penguins that flourished after the dinosaurs died.
Experts have theorized that giant creatures, like this penguin, thrived at the time due to the lack of dominant predators such as dinosaurs. Paul Scofield, senior curator at Canterbury Museum, explained to the CBC that "penguins were just starting to exploit that niche" as they lived predator-free lives.
Most researchers believe the giant penguin's paradise came to an end within 30 million years as marine mammals, such as whales, began to take over the oceans.
In their report, the researchers noted that the large feet bones of the giant penguin indicated a reliance on using their legs to swim. This is contrast to the modern penguin, which mostly uses its wings to propel itself through the water.
This month, New Zealand has solidified its reputation as some sort of ancient land of enormous birds. Earlier this August, scientists released a report that added a new species to New Zealand's collection of big birds — a list that includes the Moa and the Haast's Eagle.
Discovered back in 2008, the batch of fossils were discovered to belong to the largest parrot ever recorded. The structure of the bird was so unusually large that paleontologists initially thought the fossils were from some sort of giant eagle. After many years of studying them, the researchers were finally able to conclude that the bones were from a three-foot parrot.
According to the BBC, New Zealand is fairly ripe with findings such as these. In prehistoric times, the tropical climate and lack of predators in the area served as a growth spurt for big and varied animals. The site containing the giant penguin bones, in particular, has provided a number of delightful fossil discoveries since the 1980s by professional and amateur paleontologists alike.