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Human-sized 'monster penguin' may have weighed more than 175 pounds

Thanks a lot, scientists, for finding this fossil and destroying our Hollywood images of cutie-wooty little penguins.

Gael Cooper
CNET editor Gael Fashingbauer Cooper, a journalist and pop-culture junkie, is co-author of "Whatever Happened to Pudding Pops? The Lost Toys, Tastes and Trends of the '70s and '80s," as well as "The Totally Sweet '90s." She's been a journalist since 1989, working at Mpls.St.Paul Magazine, Twin Cities Sidewalk, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, and NBC News Digital. She's Gen X in birthdate, word and deed. If Marathon candy bars ever come back, she'll be first in line.
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Gael Cooper
2 min read

Aw, penguins. So cute, so sweet, so tiny. Wait -- back up, there. Turns out penguins weren't always the pet-sized birds we think of today.

The Canterbury Museum in Christchurch, New Zealand, blew all our visions of adorable little penguins out of the Arctic water on Wednesday by sharing a super creepy image of a new species of giant penguin that stood about 5 feet, 2 inches (1.6 meters tall) The museum dubbed it a "monster penguin" (properly IMO) and said it has been identified from fossils found in Waipara, North Canterbury.

Meet the monster penguin identified from fossils found in Waipara, North Canterbury. Standing about 1.6 metres tall and...

Posted by Canterbury Museum on Tuesday, August 13, 2019

"Monster penguin" is a pretty good name, but the penguin's previously unknown species is now known as Crossvallia waiparensis, and it dates from the Paleocene Epoch (between 66 and 56 million years ago). It's one of the world's oldest-known penguin species, the museum says, and may have weighed over 175 pounds (80 kilograms).

The museum says Leigh Love, an amateur paleontologist, found the bones in 2018.

"The discovery by a research team including Canterbury Museum curators adds to the list of gigantic, but extinct, New Zealand fauna," a representatives for the museum posted on Facebook. "These include the world's largest parrot, a giant eagle, giant burrowing bat, the moa (an extinct flightless bird) and other giant penguins."

"Monster penguin" fans can check out a 3D model of the bird online.

It's not known why the giant penguin species disappeared, but paleontologist Gerald Mayr told the BBC that one possible reason could be the rise of large marine mammals such as toothed whales and seals.

The fossils will be displayed at the museum later this year.

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