Fossil records showed that sixty million years ago there were giant human-sized penguins that flew through the southern Hemisphere waters. Smaller forms of these penguins existed also like the ones today that live in Antarctica. The recently found penguin is described as the Kupoupou stilwelli and was discovered in the Chatham Islands in the southern pacific near New Zealand. Researchers found that the Kupoupou stilwelli appeared to be one of the oldest penguins known close to its modern relatives.
The Kupoupou stilwelli appearance looked much different than the penguins seen today. They had much shorter legs and were smaller in size next to a modern king penguin. Which stands under 3.6 feet (1.1m) tall. This penguin is the first of its kind to have modern proportions in both size and its limb and foot bones (the tarsometatarsu) or foot shape.
The discovery of this new species of penguins may have linked to the origin of the penguins themselves to the eastern region of New zealand according to SciNews. “The studies also showed that the Kupoupou stilwelli started to rapidly evolve shortly after periods when dinosaurs walked on this land and giant marine reptiles swam at sea,” said Dr. Paul Scofield. “We think it’s likely that the ancestors of penguins diverged from the lineage leading to their closest living relatives — such as albatross and petrels — during the Late Cretaceous period, and then many different species sprang up after the dinosaurs were wiped out,” Professor Scofield says.
“It’s not impossible that penguins lost the ability to fly and gained the ability to swim after the extinction event of 66 million years ago, implying the birds underwent huge changes in a very short time. If we ever find a penguin fossil from the Cretaceous period, we’ll know for sure.”
As published in the US diary Palaeontologica Electronica, the creature’s logical name recognizes the Indigenous Moriori individuals of the Chatham Island (Rēkohu), with Kupoupou signifying ‘diving bird’ in Te Re Moriori. Jacob Blokland, Flinders University PhD palaeontology candidate and University of Canterbury graduate, worked alongside with professor Scofield. He made this discovery after studying fossil skeletons collected from Chatham Island between 2006 and 2011.