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By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

2/29/2012 (2 years ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Remains of gigantic penguin discovered in New Zealand

Scientists have discovered the fossilized remains of a large extinct penguin in New Zealand. Using bones from two separate examples of the ancient birds, the scientists say the latest fossilized skeleton has a similar appearance of a modern king penguin. The fossilized remains are the latest found of the new species and that it represents the most complete skeleton ever assembled of the now-extinct creature.

Kairuku, along with at least five other types of prehistoric penguins, resided on the islands of New Zealand. The Kairuku eventually went extinct without leaving any descendents. Scientists have had to literally piece together the remains in an effort to decipher how the penguin lived and died.

Kairuku, along with at least five other types of prehistoric penguins, resided on the islands of New Zealand. The Kairuku eventually went extinct without leaving any descendents. Scientists have had to literally piece together the remains in an effort to decipher how the penguin lived and died.

Article Highlights

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

2/29/2012 (2 years ago)

Published in Asia Pacific

Keywords: Penguin, fossils, Kairuku penguin


LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - "It's almost like someone took an emperor penguin and stretched it out," declares Avian Paleontologist Daniel Ksepka, from North Carolina State University who helped to reassemble the fossils.
   
The 25 million-year-old Kairuku penguin was taller than modern penguins, at just over four feet, with an elongated beak and large flippers. The fossil has lengthy flippers for its size and a long and narrow beak, nearly one foot taller than the largest living penguin today, the emperor penguin. The team noted that the flightless bird likely speared fish and squid with its curved beak.

These specimens began turning up in the 1970s, and researchers have continued to discover bones from the animals as recently as two months ago. The first remains of the elongated bird came as a result of paleontologists searching for fossil whales and dolphins.

Twenty-five million years ago, New Zealand served as an attractive location for penguins. The area offered both food and safety easy access to food. Most of the country was underwater at that time, leaving isolated, rocky land masses that protected the penguins from potential predators, scientists say.

"For much of its history, New Zealand has been sitting in the middle of the Southern Ocean, the sea that circles Antarctica," co-author Ewan Fordyce of Otago University says. "For millions of years, it has provided suitable land for rookeries and access to rich food resources in nearby seas."

Kairuku, along with at least five other types of prehistoric penguins, resided on the islands of New Zealand. The Kairuku eventually went extinct without leaving any descendents. Scientists have had to literally piece together the remains in an effort to decipher how the penguin lived and died.

"They're not related to living species, but they were an interesting side chapter," Ksepka says. "It's cool to see a new type of penguin, and it highlights the fact that this was really a diverse ecosystem of penguins."

However -- the Kairuku are not the largest penguins ever discovered. At least two extinct species discovered in Peru stood nearly five feet tall.

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