Forgotten bones lead to ancient penguin species

Both the New Zealand Herald and Radio New Zealand have today covered the story of a newly identified species of ancient giant penguin, based on fossils found in a old storage shed.

PenguinAn excerpt from the New Zealand Herald (read in full here):

A giant ancient penguin far taller than any species alive today has been described for the first time after its fossil remains sat for decades inside an Auckland storage shed.

The fossilised bones of the penguin, yet to be named, were found in North Waikato in 1971, but had been largely ignored until recently rediscovered by Massey University zoologist Dr Daniel Thomas.

The unusual features of the 28-million-year-old specimen have convinced Dr Thomas it is a new species, and the first of its kind to be discovered in the North Island.

Dr Thomas estimates the bird would have stood at 1.3m – slightly taller than the ancient Kairuku penguin discovered in 2012, and about 30cm taller than today’s largest penguin, the emperor.

“I imagine an emperor would have run away scared,” said Dr Thomas, when asked how the two birds would compare.

Keep reading…

You can also listen an interview with to Dr Thomas on Radio New Zealand’s Morning Report, below (news story here).

Dr Daniel Thomas is a graduate of the latest Science Media SAVVY workshop.