Fossils of Giant Extinct Penguin Rediscovered in New Zealand Storage Shed

The ancient penguins were probably at least one foot taller than emperor penguins. REUTERS

The fossilized bones of a large extinct penguin have been found in New Zealand. The animal, which scientists are "almost certain" is a previously unknown species, would have stood about 4-foot-3—one foot taller than emperor penguins, the largest living variety.

But the researchers don't know if the bones come from an adult or a juvenile, so it's possible this penguin might have been significantly larger.

"I imagine an emperor would have run away scared," Daniel Thomas, a researcher at Massey University, told The New Zealand Herald.

Strangely enough, the bones were unearthed in 1971, but since that time had been languishing, mostly unexamined, in a storage shed operated by the University of Auckland, according to Radio New Zealand. Thomas first heard about the fossils while "searching through old research papers," and then got permission to examine them.

He then sent 3-D scans of the fossils to the American paleontologist Daniel Ksepka, who helped establish that this was an unknown penguin.

The scientists think these penguins roamed what is now New Zealand 28 million years ago. The fossils were found in an area that was under water at the time, and the animals probably made a living by diving deep underwater to hunt for fish, Thomas said.