Giant Penguin Fossil Discovered in New Zealand

Giant Penguin Fossil Discovered in New Zealand

Giant Penguin Fossil Discovered in New Zealand

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Feb. 28 2012 1:23 PM

Giant Penguin Fossil Discovered in New Zealand

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(A baby penguin swims in a tank after being released at Sydney Aquarium on January 18, 2012 in Sydney, Australia.)

Photo by Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images

March of the giant penguins! A 27-million-year-old fossil of the largest penguin ever known has been found in New Zealand. Standing at about 5 feet, the penguin likely weighed 130 pounds and resembled its modern counterpart, except for a longer bill and more slender body. In comparison, today's largest penguin, the Emperor penguin, stands about 3 feet tall and weighs around 85 pounds. 

Tatsuro Ando of the Ashoro Museum of Paleontology in Japan told Discovery News that these giant flightless birds first emerged about 50 million years ago, not long after the extinction of dinosaurs, and thrived for 25 million years before dying out, likely due to a drastic change in their environment. 

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No word yet on whether or not New Zealand’s giant penguin is technically an ancestor of Danny DeVito. But trust us, we’re working on it.

Ben Johnson is the producer of Marketplace Tech from American Public Media.