SCIENCE
08/03/2014 12:58 pm ET Updated Aug 04, 2014

Ancient Species Of Penguin Would Have Been Taller Than Humans

Imagine a human-sized penguin.

That might not be far-fetched: A recent fossil find in Antarctica sheds light on an ancient species of penguin that measured at least 6 feet tall and weighed around 250 pounds.

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Carolina Acosta Hospitaleche of the La Plata Museum in Argentina has been excavating deposits on an island off the Antarctic peninsula that's rife with ancient penguin fossils. About 40 million years ago, Seymour Island was likely home to several species of ancient penguin that flourished in warmer, 60-degree Fahrenheit weather.

Acosta Hospitaleche described the era as "a wonderful time for penguins, when 10 to 14 species lived together along the Antarctic coast," according to The New Scientist.

In the most complete skeletal find from the region, which she describes in the journal Geobios, she uncovered about a dozen bones from a prehistoric bird that would have spanned about 6 feet 7 inches from beak to feet. The bird, Palaeeudyptes klekowskii, lived around 37 to 40 million years ago.

The find crushes the height record, set by another extinct species of penguin that stood 5 feet tall, and provides further proof that ancient penguins were much larger that their modern-day descendants, the tallest of which is the Emperor penguin at 4 feet.

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