Mega penguin’s massive foot shows it was tallest and heaviest ever to walk the Earth

New fossil discovery shows world’s greatest extinct penguin ever discovered was bigger than (many) humans

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The Independent Online

Scientists have discovered what they believe to be the biggest penguin to have ever waddled the Earth, standing taller than a human and weighing more than 18 stone.

The fossilised remains of this ancient mega penguin were uncovered on Seymour Island, just off the Antarctic at its nearest point to South America.

The site has been the source of thousands of significant penguin bones in the past, New Scientist reported, but a team from Argentina’s La Plata Museum have now found two giant fossils that tell us just how big the colossal penguin was.

Previously identified as Palaeeudyptes klekowskii, scientists were already aware of the species which lived between 37 and 40 million years ago.

But we now know the mega penguin would have been more than 2m (6ft 8ins) long from beak tip to toe, or 1.6m tall standing with its beak down, and weighed 115kg (18.1 stone).

That compares to just 46kg for the biggest living penguins – Emperors – which can reach lengths of 1.36m. The previous record-holding extinct penguin stood at 1.5m tall.

Carolina Acosta Hospitaleche, who led the latest excavation, told New Scientist this was “a wonderful time for penguins, when 10 to 14 species lived together along the Antarctic coast”.

Past discoveries of small P. klekowskii fossils have only given us a hint at the bird’s full size.

But Acosta Hospitaleche’s latest study, published in the journal Comptes Rendus Palevol, involved finding two much greater bones, from the penguin’s wing and foot.

The foot bone was the longest ever found from any penguin species, and allowed Acosta Hospitaleche to estimate, based on relative sizes in other penguin skeletons, P. klekowskii’s dimensions.

Dan Ksepka, from the Bruce Museum in Greenwich, Connecticut, told New Scientist that the critical fossil from P. klekowskii was “the longest foot bone I've ever seen”. “This is definitely a big penguin,” he added.