A work published in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology confirms that the fossil remains of a giant penguin that were found by a group of schoolchildren in 2006 belong to a hitherto unknown species. The children made this amazing find on a field trip with the Hamilton Junior Naturalist Club in Kawhia Harbor, New Zealand.
The remains have been analyzed by a team of researchers from Massey University (New Zealand) and the Bruce Museum (Connecticut, United States) using 3D scanning, a technique that allows them to later compare the fossil with digital versions of bones from around the world. , as well as obtaining a 3D printed replica of it.
The results indicate that the fossil is between 27.3 and 34.6 million years old, a time when much of the region where it was found was submerged under water . “The penguin is similar to the Kairuku, another species of giant penguins that were first discovered in Otago, but it has much longer legs, which has earned it the name of waewaeroa (‘long legs’ in Maori). Perhaps it would measure 1.4 meters in height, and these legs could have influenced the speed at which it could swim or the depth at which it could submerge ”, explained Daniel Thomas, associate professor of Zoology at the Faculty of Natural and Computational Sciences by Massey.
An iconic penguin
“ Kairuku waewaeroa is iconic for many reasons. The fossil penguin reminds us that we share Zealandia, the ancient submerged continent, with incredible animal lineages that stretch far back in time. Furthermore, the way it was discovered reminds us of the importance of encouraging future generations to become guardians of nature. “
The children who made this incredible find with their naturalist club are not so young anymore, and many remember the discovery with emotion: “It is incredible to see that something we found when we were children so many years ago is contributing to the current academy, and it is also! a new species! ”, recalls one of them. ” The existence of giant penguins in New Zealand is little known , and it is good to know that the scientific community continues to study them and learn more about them.”
“It’s always exciting to find a fossil, because you think about the amount of time it has been hidden, locked in a rock,” reflects Taly Matthews, a longtime member of the Hamilton Junior Naturalist Club, who works for the Department of Conservation at Taranaki. However, finding a giant penguin fossil is on another level. As more are discovered, we will be able to fill in more gaps in your story. It’s very exciting”.
Referencia: Simone Giovanardi, Daniel T. Ksepka & Daniel B. Thomas (2021) A giant Oligocene fossil penguin from the North Island of New Zealand, Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, DOI: 10.1080/02724634.2021.1953047