New Zealand's monster penguins had doppelgangers in Japan, the USA and Canada

The largest known plotopterids were over two metres long, while some of the giant penguins were up to 1.6 metres tall.


A study has found that New Zealand's monster penguins that lived 62 million years ago had doppelgangers in Japan, the USA and Canada.

During the study, researchers compared fossilised remains of a group of much younger Northern Hemisphere birds, the plotopterids, with that of the giant penguin species Waimanu, Muriwaimanu and Sequiwaimanu from Canterbury Museum's collection.

Palaeontologists identified striking similarities between the penguins' fossilised bones and the plotopterids. They discovered the fossilised bones of these ancient waddlers at Waipara, North Canterbury, and identified nine different species, ranging in size from today's Yellow-Eyed Penguin to 1.6 metre-high monsters.

Plotopterids like these Copepteryx looked remarkably like penguins. Image credit: Mark Witton

Plotopterids like these Copepteryx looked remarkably like penguins. Image credit: Mark Witton

The research published in the Journal of Zoological Systematics and Evolutionary Research divulged that plotopterids developed in the Northern Hemisphere much later than penguins. The first species of the Northern Hemisphere birds appeared between 37 and 34 million years ago.

The largest known plotopterids were over two metres long, while some of the giant penguins were up to 1.6 metres tall.

The fossils of plotopterids have been found at a number of sites in North America and Japan. However, unlike penguins, which have survived into the modern era, the last plotopterid species became extinct around 25 million years ago, reported ScienceDaily.

"What's remarkable about all this is that plotopterids and ancient penguins evolved these shared features independently. This is an example of what we call convergent evolution," Dr Vanesa De Pietri, Canterbury Museum Curators. When distantly related organisms develop similar morphological traits under similar environmental conditions, it is called convergent evolution.

Another study surfaced last year suggested that giant penguins, as large as humans once lived on earth. IBTimes reported that to find more information about this evolution, a team of scientists discovered the fossils of a new penguin that apparently acted as a missing link between modern penguins and the ones that lived alongside dinosaurs.

They named these new species of penguins Kupoupou stilwelli. The study published in the journal Palaeontologia Electronica informed that these penguins had proportionally shorter legs than some other earlier ones.


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