Terrifying prehistoric penguin weighed as much as an adult gorilla

“Once you know you’re not flying anymore, the sky’s the limit.”

Dethronement of the Emperor

Today, New Zealand is known for its diverse and unique bird populations, particularly seabirds, forest dwellers and non-aerial aves such as the country’s quintessential kiwi.

But these are small fish. Researchers have now discovered an extinct species of penguin that was native to the island and was absolutely massive, weighing as much as an adult gorilla or even a medium-sized black bear. critch!

“Once you know you’re not flying anymore, the sky’s the limit,” said study author Daniel Ksepka, a paleontologist at the Bruce Museum The New York Times.

Paleontologists first unearthed the bones in 2017, along with a more complete skeleton of a smaller species that was still considerably larger than modern penguins. But it wasn’t until now, in a new study published this week in the Journal of Paleontologythat the researchers fully revealed the juicy details and gave the big boy a name: Kumimanu fordycei. Accordingly NYTit’s a combination of Maori Words for “monster” and “bird”, which sounds about right.

They used 3D models derived from a cast of Kumimanu’s colossal femur to determine that the “monster bird” weighed 340 pounds. Determining its height proved more difficult and uncertain, but researchers estimate it was a whopping 5 feet 2 inches tall. Meanwhile, the smaller penguin named Petradyptes weighed 110 pounds. For comparison, the largest extant penguin, the emperor penguin, grows to a maximum of 4 feet and weighs about 88 pounds.

Untouchable entity

explained Ksepka NYT that these giant penguins thrived during a post-dinosaur era when there were less formidable aquatic predators to challenge them.

“If you’re a little one-pound penguin, a seagull can just rip your head off,” he told the outlet. “But a 300-pound penguin won’t worry about a seagull landing near him because it would just crush him.”

Ksepka added that in addition to being untouchable, their stout size has made them more experienced deep-sea divers who could stay warmer longer, like seabirds.

However, the Kumimanu and the Petradypts still retained remnants of their ancestors aloft in their fins, also known as their Quondam wings. In other words, their fins weren’t as developed as modern penguins’ – showing that penguins got bigger before they could swim better.

Does that mean there could be more titanic penguins roaming the lakes? Unfortunately, probably not, says Gerald Mayr, a paleontologist who was not involved in the study.

“I think Kumimanu is close to the upper limit of a flightless seabird, and I don’t expect much larger penguins to be found,” he said NYT.

More on ancient life: Scientists discover the world’s oldest surviving vertebrate brain

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