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Still Waters

Fossilised long-legged giant penguin identified as new species

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Still Waters

In January 2006 a group of children in summer camp in Waikato, New Zealand, went on a fossil-hunting field trip with a seasoned archaeologist. They kayaked to the upper Kawhia harbour, a hotspot for this sort of activity, and they expected to find fossils of shellfish and the like, as they regularly did on these Hamilton junior naturalist club expeditions.

But on this day, just before heading home, close to where they’d left the kayaks and well below the high tide mark, they noticed a trace of fossils that looked like much more than prehistoric crustaceans. After careful extraction, an archaeologist later identified it as the most complete fossilised skeleton of an ancient giant penguin yet uncovered.

According to a study newly published in the Journal of Vertebrate Palaeontology by Massey University scientists, it was a new species of prehistoric penguin. The discovery is helping scientists fill in some gaps in natural history. Penguin species have a fossil record dating almost as far back as the age of the dinosaurs and can say a lot about the ecology of the past and the present.



A giant Oligocene fossil penguin from the North Island of New Zealand


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Junior archeologists.  Incredible find

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