Giant, human-size penguins once roamed Earth, researchers say

PHOTO: An illustration comparing the Kumimanu biceae to an average person. PlayGerald Mayr, Senckenberg Research Institute
WATCH Giant, human-size penguins once roamed Earth, researchers say

Giant penguins, standing over 5 feet tall and weighing more than 220 pounds, may have roamed Earth some 60 million years ago, according to new research.

Scientists on Tuesday said they discovered fossils of an ancient penguin that may have stood 5 foot 7 — nearly the height of the average American male — and weighed about 225 pounds, according to a Nature Communications research report.

The monster flightless bird, called the Kumimanu biceae, is believed to have swum off the coast of New Zealand 56 million to 60 million years ago, according to the research.

PHOTO: The upper arm bone (humerus, top) and a shoulder girdle bone (coracoid, bottom) of the Paleocene giant penguin Kumimanu biceae compared with the corresponding bones of one of the largest known fossil penguins. Gerald Mayr/Senckenberg Research Institute
The upper arm bone (humerus, top) and a shoulder girdle bone (coracoid, bottom) of the Paleocene giant penguin Kumimanu biceae compared with the corresponding bones of one of the largest known fossil penguins.

It would dwarf the emperor penguin, the biggest penguin today, which is less than 4 feet tall.

Researchers said the fossils, unearthed in New Zealand, shed “considerable light on the early evolution of penguins.”

PHOTO: An illustration comparing the Kumimanu biceae to an average person. Gerald Mayr, Senckenberg Research Institute
An illustration comparing the Kumimanu biceae to an average person.

“Kumimanu shows that gigantism was not uncommon in early penguins and was already in the earliest evolutionary stages of these birds,” said Gerald Mayr, a paleontologist at the Senckenberg Research Institute in Frankfurt, Germany, and the lead author of the Nature Communications report.

He said the fossils are “among the oldest known finds of penguins, and it is worth noting that already earliest forms were enormously large.”