Very young fossil hunters have discovered in New Zealand a species of giant penguins, which lived very close to the time of the dinosaurs. The discovery, which took place in 2006, is now attested by a group of paleontologists from Massey University, including the Italian Simone Giovanardi, and the result is published in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.
The discovery of the new species of giant penguin dates back to the excursion organized by the Hamilton Junior Naturalist Club (JUNATS) and led by the experienced fossil hunter Chris Templer. The fossils, found in Taranaki and Waikato locations, add to the remains of other giant penguins previously discovered in other locations in New Zealand, notably Otago and Canterbury.
Researchers from Massey University and Connecticut's Bruce Museum subsequently visited the Waikato Museum in New Zealand to analyze these fossils using three-dimensional scanning techniques, and compare them to digital versions of bones found elsewhere in the world.
In this way they made a 3D printed replica of the one found by the children. According to researcher Daniel Thomas, the fossil can be dated between 27.3 and 34.6 million years, a time when a large part of Waitako was submerged by water. "This penguin - comments Thomas - is similar to the giant Kairuku penguins found in Otago, but has much longer legs and was probably the tallest among the other Kairuku giant penguins, about 1.4 meters, and could have influenced the speed with which they were able to swim or dive ".