New giant penguin species discovered at Waipara Greensand

Monday 12 August 2019

Gerald Mayr, Vanesa L De Pietri, Leigh Love, Al Mannering and R Paul Scofield. 2019. A partial skeleton of a new penguin species from the Waipara Greensand adds to the diversity of very large-sized Sphenisciformes in the Paleocene of New Zealand. Alcheringa: An Australasian Journal of Palaeontology.

Crossvallia Waiparensis compared to human female

Model of 1.6 metre-high giant penguin compared to an average-height woman

A new species of giant penguin – about 1.6 metres tall – has been identified from fossils found in Waipara, North Canterbury. Crossvallia Waiparensis, which lived in the Paleocene Epoch (between 66 and 56 million years ago), was about 1.6 metres tall and weighed up to 70 to 80 kg.

Amateur palaeontologist Leigh Love found the bones at the Waipara Greensand fossil site in North Canterbury in 2018. Local fossil preparator Al Mannering readied them for study and helped describe them.

A team comprising Canterbury Museum curators Dr Paul Scofield and Dr Vanesa De Pietri, and Dr Gerald Mayr of Senckenberg Natural History Museum in Frankfurt, Germany, analysed the bones and concluded they belonged to a previously unknown penguin species.

The team discovered that the closest known relative of C.waiparensis is a fellow Paleocene species Crossvallia unienwillia, which was identified from a fossilised partial skeleton found in the Cross Valley in Antarctica in 2000.

The leg bones of both Crossvallia penguins suggest their feet played a greater role in swimming than those of modern penguins, or that they hadn’t yet adapted to standing upright like modern penguins.

C. waiparensis is the fifth ancient penguin species described from fossils uncovered at the Waipara Greensand site.

See the paper here

See our media release here

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