Impressive Fossil of Human-Sized Penguin Discovered in New Zealand

The bones of the Crossvallia waiparensis indicate the penguins were as tall as five foot two and weighed 176 pounds.
Fabienne Lang

Penguins as tall as humans used to roam the Earth, specifically in New Zealand, a new discovery has found. 

The fossil of a human-sized penguin has been unearthed in the Southern Hemisphere country, making it the largest penguin ever to roam the planet. 

Paleontologists have named the species Crossvallia waiparensis, belonging to the Sphenisciformes order. 


The discovery was published in the journal Alcheringa: An Australasian Journal of Paleontology on Monday.

Details of the penguin fossil

Found by amateur paleontologist, Leigh Love, in 2018 in the Waipara Greensand fossil bed, ornithologist Gerald Mayr of the Senckenberg Natural History Museum in Germany, said: "The fossils discovered there has made our understanding of penguin evolution a whole lot clearer."

The penguin is believed to have waddled the Earth during the Paleocene era, between 66 and 56 million years ago.

This makes it one of the world's oldest known penguin species, and also one of the tallest. 

With a height of approximately 1.6 meters (or five foot two), and weighing around 70 to 80 kilograms (154 to 176 pounds), it's taller than today's Emperor Penguin. 

It's believed to be related to another extinct penguin species, the Crossvallia unienwillia, which lived on an entirely different continent: Antarctica

According to scientists, during that time, those regions were quite similar in vegetation and wildlife. With this discovery, it goes to show how closely related these regions were tens of millions of years ago. 

Most Popular

Paul Scofield, a senior curator at the Canterbury Museum in New Zealand, said: "New Zealand and Antarctica were very different from today - Antarctica was covered in forest and both had much warmer climates." 

Penguins and evolution

This discovery also helps prove that penguins grew very big, very quickly, and then shrunk to smaller sizes.

Impressive Fossil of Human-Sized Penguin Discovered in New Zealand
Drs Vanesa De Pietri, Paul Scofield, and Gerald Mayr examine a Crossvallia waiparensis fossil at Canterbury Museum. Source: Canterbury Museum

The reason behind the shrinkage is linked to the rise in sea mammals such as seals, whales, and others, where food sources became a bigger competition. With less food, the penguins grew less big. 

By finding such fossils, it helps scientists gain a better understanding of our Earth's history, as well as the history of animals.