A new relic has been discovered by an amateur fossil collector, Leigh Love, in the Waipara Greensand at Waipara River, Canterbury Province, New Zealand. Unsure of what it is, he let a team of paleontologists from Canterbury Museum in Christchurch, New Zealand, and the Senckenberg Research Institute in Frankfurt, Germany analyze the remains.
Based on their thorough research, this flattened and wide tarsometatarsus (lower leg bone) fossil actually came from a previous species of penguin. Specifically, this new find is in fact one of the oldest penguin fossils in the world!
“Together with the fossils of the recently discovered penguin-like bird Waimanu manneringi
, the new specimens are the earliest published penguin remains,” they said.
These birds are believed to waddle the Earth during the Paleocene epoch with an age of approximately 61 million years. The bones are significantly enormous and are believed to belong to a species with about 5 feet (1.5 m) body length. Such size is almost as big as Anthropornis nordenskjoeldi
(the largest known fossil penguin, which lived in Antarctica between 45 and 33 million years ago).
Artist’s impression of a group of Waimanu penguins.
Moreover, the noticeable difference of the fossil from previous penguin finds of a similar age shows a clear diversity of Paleocene penguins. Hence, it is postulated that “…penguins probably evolved during the ‘Age of the Dinosaurs’ more than 65 million years ago,” said team member Dr. Gerald Mayr, of the Senckenberg Research Institute.
As to its style of walk, these birds are believed to actually waddle the same way penguins waddle today. Can you imagine this larger one walking that way?
“The newly-discovered bird walked differently from the cormorant-like gait of Waimanu
. The larger penguin was already waddling like the penguins we see today,” said team member Dr. Vanesa De Pietri, from Canterbury Museum.
This discovery shows how much we should still wander and explore the depth of this planet. With the efforts of these paleontologists, we might be able to find answers from the past.