The world's tallest penguin species once inhabited New Zealand, according to LiveScience. Scientists discovered the fossilized species almost 20 years ago, but have only recently released the details of their findings. The Kairuku Grenbeffi once stood as tall as a small human at approximately 4.2 feet (1.3 meters) and lived roughly 27 million years ago along the coasts of the island country.
Kairuku was an elegant bird by penguin standards, with a slender body and long flippers, but short, thick legs and feet, said North Carolina State University paleontologist Dan Ksepka in a press release.
While the skeletons of the penguins were discovered in 1977, the reconstruction process took an especially long time because of the bird's unique shape. If we had done a reconstruction by extrapolating from the length of its flippers, it would have stood over 6 feet tall, Ksepka said. In reality, Kairuku was around 4-feet-2 inches tall or so.
The Kairuku penguin was even taller than the largest Emperor Penguins today. Though it likely only survived for a few million years, the Kairuku penguin made an ideal habitat out of New Zealand, which was mostly underwater at the time.
We've been calling it svelte-it's kind of thin for a penguin, most today are rather blubbery. Most of the animal is quite elegantly designed, I think it would have been a beautiful animal to see alive, said Ksepka. The beak is very long, straight, and narrow, which means it's not suited to getting shrimp or krill. They were probably hunting larger things like fish and squid.