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Scientists Just Discovered That Penguins Used To Be Human-Sized

Penguins aren't exactly formidable creatures, are they? Although Emperor penguins can reach up to 4 feet 2 inches, they always seem super friendly and cute. Now imagine a penguin the same height as you. That changes things. Penguins the size of humans... the idea sounds like it comes from science fiction. But it actually just comes from science. It was recently discovered that giant penguins used to exist. We are not kidding. 

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  • computer generated image of woman standing next to giant human sized penguin
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    On 14th August 2019, scientists in New Zealand discovered the fossilized bones of giant, human-sized penguins (Crossvallia waiparensis). Until now, it wasn't conceived that this species existed. These monster penguins are said to have stood at 5 feet 2 inches and weighed 176 pounds. 


  • diagram showing woman standing next to small penguins that live today and a giant human sized penguin
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    The fossilized bones date back to 60 million years ago. Around this time, the dinosaurs and other large marine reptiles vanished from the earth, leaving the land predator-free and perfect for the giant penguin to thrive. However, the giant penguins only existed for around 30 million years before other large marine mammals (such as seals and toothed whales) came into existence and began to kill off the giant penguins, eventually leading them to extinction. 


  • computer generated image of man standing with extinct large sea birds of new zealand
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    Via Imgur

    This isn't the only large animal fossil that scientists have discovered. New Zealand was actually a hotspot for megafauna, with fossils being found of other giant birds like the giant parrot, the moa (which stood at a whopping 3.6 meters) and a giant eagle. Humans have a pretty good knack at killing off species, and the extinction of these giant animals can be timed with the arrival of the first humans in New Zealand. However, there are still many species exclusive to New Zealand living there today, most of which are flightless birds. 


  • computer generated image of back of woman and human sized penguin
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    Although penguins live all over the world today, it is thought that penguins originated from the Southern Hemisphere. This is because the oldest penguin fossils have been found in New Zealand, Antarctica and Marie Byrd Land. However, these penguins are thought to have spent much more time in the water than their smaller descendants as they have larger leg bones than penguins do today. Think of the distances those huge animals would have traveled! 


  • picture emperor penguins and chicks from below
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    Via MNN

    So there you have it. Giant penguins used to exist. We don't know how that makes you feel, so if you're in need of some more penguin-related things, we'll take care of it. Who knows, maybe in some undiscovered part of the world giant penguins still exist. But we're pretty happy with the regular sized ones for now. 

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