The fossilised bones of Crossvallia waiparensis were found by Leigh Love, an amateur palaeontologist at the Waipara Greensand fossil site in North Canterbury, New Zealand last year.
Five other penguin species were also discovered at the same site.
The species was alive between 56 million and 66 million years ago, during the paleocene epoch, weighing up to 80kg and about 1.6m tall, one of the largest penguins ever discovered.
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 local Al Mannering prepared them for study and helped describe them.
Dr Mayr said the discovery made the understanding of penguin development and adaptation a lot clearer.
“There’s more to come, too – more fossils which we think represent new species are still awaiting description.”
Analysis of the penguin’s feet suggested they used them for swimming much more than their modern relatives and possibly had not yet adapted to standing upright.
Crossvallia unienwillia, a partial fossilised skeleton found in Antartica’s Cross Valley in 2000, is the bird’s closest known relative.
When these birds were alive, Antartica most likely had a very different climate and ecosystem to what is today, with scientists discovering a 260-million-year-old fossilised forest underneath the ice.
When the penguins would have been alive, Antarctica had a very different climate and was probably covered in forest.
Story via RNZ.