The “incredible” fossil remains of an unusually long-legged giant penguin, first found by schoolchildren in New Zealand, belonged to a previously unknown species, researchers have said.
Back in 2006, a group of schoolchildren who were participating in an organized fossil hunting field trip discovered a giant set of fossil penguin bones at Kawia Harbor in the Waikato region of New Zealand’s North Island.
Fossils were recovered from the sandstone cliff shortly thereafter and donated to the Waikato Museum in 2017.
But the new analysis of the bones, using 3D scanning, means that the research team at Massey University in New Zealand and the Bruce Museum in Connecticut, US, was able to produce a 3D-printed replica of the skeleton, and found that the giant penguin would have stood about 1.4 inches tall. meter long.
In comparison, the tallest species of penguin still alive today, the emperor, is 1.2 m.
Dr Daniel Thomas, a senior lecturer in zoology in the Massey School of Natural and Computational Sciences, said the fossil is between 27.3 and 34.6 million years old and dates from the time when most of Waikato was under water.
The fossil record of penguins almost reaches the age of dinosaurs, and the oldest of these penguins have been discovered in New Zealand.
Fossil penguins from Zealandia – the largely submerged continent from where New Zealand now rises above the waves – are known mostly from Otago in the south east of the South Island and Canterbury in the northeast of the South Island – although important discoveries have recently led to Taranaki and In Waikato, both are built on the North Island.
“The penguin is similar to the Kairuku giant penguin previously described from Otago, but has much longer legs, which researchers used to name Penguin Waweroa – Te Rey Māori for ‘long legs’,” said Dr Thomas.
“These long legs would have made the penguin significantly taller than other karaku while it was walking on land, probably about 1.4 meters long, and may have changed how fast it could swim or how much,” he said. Can dive deep.”
“It has been a real privilege to contribute to the story of this incredible penguin. We know how important this fossil is to so many people.”
Mike Ceffi, president of the Hamilton Junior Naturalist Club, which organized the original field trip, said the children involved will remember for a lifetime.
“It was a rare privilege for the kids in our club to have the opportunity to find and save this giant fossil penguin. We always encourage young people to hang out and enjoy themselves. There are so many cool things out there just waiting to be discovered. have been.”
Stephen Sephy, who was on both the search and rescue missions, said: “It is very surreal to know that a discovery we made so many years ago as children is contributing to academia today. And this one New species, even!
“The existence of giant penguins in New Zealand is hardly known, so it’s really great to know that the community continues to study and learn more about them. Clearly the day spent cutting it out of sandstone is well worth it.” It’s gone by!”
Dr. Esther Dale, a plant ecologist who now lives in Switzerland, was also there.
She said: “It’s thrilling to be involved in the discovery of such a large and relatively complete fossil, let alone a new species! I’m excited to see what we learn from it about the evolution and life of penguins in New Zealand. can.”
Tally Matthews, a longtime member of the Hamilton Junior Naturalist Club, and who works for the Department of Conservation at Taranaki, says, “Finding any fossil is so exciting when you think about how much time has passed while it The animal was hidden away, nestled in rock. Finding a giant penguin fossil is on another level though. As more giant penguin fossils are discovered, we get to fill in more gaps in the story. It’s so exciting. “
Dr. Thomas said: “Fossil penguins remind us that we share New Zealand with incredible animal lineages that reach deep in time, and this sharing gives us an important patronizing role. Discovering fossil penguins along the way Children exploring nature, reminds us of the importance of encouraging future generations to become katyaki. [guardians]”
research is published in Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.
Credit: www.independent.co.uk /