Giant Prehistoric Penguins Revealed: Big but Skinny
Birds lived on small New Zealand islands 25 million years ago.
(Related pictures: "Giant Prehistoric Penguins Found" .)
For decades, study co-author Ewan Fordyce, a paleontologist at New Zealand's University of Otago, had been happening across bones of the species while searching for fossil whales and dolphins.
Only recently, though, has a team reconstructed a full skeleton. This composite—created using a model of a modern-day king penguin—represents both species, which were quite similar.
The result is "quite a streamlined animal—it wouldn't look like any penguin that's alive today," said study leader Dan Ksepka, an avian paleontologist at North Carolina State University.
Instead of a modern penguin's rotund shape, each of the newly named species had a narrow chest; long, tapering flippers; and a narrow beak—a body specialized for hunting fish.
Standing about 4.3 feet (1.3