Extinct giant penguin bigger than a child found by students hunting fossils

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A giant penguin the size of a child roamed the Earth around 30 million years ago.

Students in New Zealand sensationally found remains of the unknown beaked beast in 2006.

Now scientists say the remarkable bones discovered at Kawhia Harbour reveal a new species of ancient penguin.

Ornithologist Dr Daniel Thomas who led the research at Massey University in Auckland, says its longer legs could have allowed it to swim faster and deeper, MailOnline reports.

He said: "The penguin is similar to the Kairuku giant penguins first described from Otago but has much longer legs, which the researchers used to name the penguin waewaeroa — Te reo Māori for 'long legs'.

"These longer legs would have made the penguin much taller than other Kairuku while it was walking on land.

"Perhaps around 1.4 metres [4 feet 7 inches] tall, and may have influenced how fast it could swim or how deep it could dive.

"It’s been a real privilege to contribute to the story of this incredible penguin. We know how important this fossil is to so many people."

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Schoolchildren from the Hamilton Junior Naturalist Club were on a fossil hunt in January 2006, when they stumbled upon what has proven to be a scientific breakthrough.

Immediately after news broke of the fossil, scientists flocked from around the world to see it for themselves.

Researchers from Massey University and Bruce Museum in the US joined forces at the Waikato Museum in Hamilton to analyse the fossil.

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Paleontologists used 3D scanning technology to compare the fossil with digital versions of bones from around the world.

Dr. Daniel Thomas determined that the fossil was between 27.3 million and 34.6 million years old.

The study was published in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.

  • Animals
  • Students
  • Science

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