A giant penguin which would have stood at 5ft 2 inches in height has been identified from fossil bones in New Zealand.
Researchers believe that the giant 80kg penguins thrived once the dinosaurs became extinct around 60 million years ago.
Canterbury Museum has called the animal, which are four times heavier than today’s species, “monster penguin”.
The findings were published this week in Alcheringa: An Australasian Journal Of Palaeontology.
This comes days after news emerged about 'Sqawkzilla' the oversized parrot, whose fossils found in New Zealand reveal the existence of an ancient parrot which would have stood as tall as a four-year-old child.
Dr Paul Scofield, co-author and a senior curator at the Canterbury Museum, said the discovery is significant because the species is similar to another giant penguin found in Antarctica and helps connect the two regions.
He believes the penguins became extinct due to marine mammals ruling the waters.
The leg bones of the penguin fossils suggest its feet played a greater role in swimming than those of today’s penguins.
He said: “The oceans were ripe for the picking with the lack of mega predators.
“It looks like what was going on was that penguins were just starting to exploit that niche.”
Scientists believe the penguins would have shared the waters surrounding New Zealand with giant turtles, corals and sharks,
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The monster penguins, named Crossvallia waiparensis, would have been about twice the weight and 1ft taller than the largest type of penguins alive today, emperor penguins.
Enthusiast Leigh Love found the monster penguin’s bones near the South Island city of Christchurch in an eroding bank.
Mr Love said: “It wasn’t until I got the fossils home and did a little preparation that I realised I had something completely different than what had been found before.”