Is the Emperor Penguin the Largest Bird in Antarctica?

37 million years ago, Antarctica was home to a penguin species that stood around 6’7” – far taller than today's emperor penguins (shown here).
37 million years ago, Antarctica was home to a penguin species that stood around 6’7” – far taller than today's emperor penguins (shown here).

The emperor penguin is the largest penguin species currently waddling on Earth, standing about 3 feet 7 inches (1.1 meters) and weighing around 110 pounds (50 kg). But the fossilized bones of a prehistoric species unearthed in Antarctica in 2014 indicate that a much larger penguin species roamed the Earth some 37 million years ago.

Remains of Palaeeudyptes klekowskii, dubbed the “colossus penguin,” indicate that these birds would have weighed in at 250 pounds (115 kg) and stood about 6 feet 7 inches (2 m) tall, measured from toe to beak tip. These giant penguins could hunt fish underwater for long periods of time, with the ability to dive deeper than today's penguins, and to stay submerged for as long as 40 minutes.

More on the colossus penguin:

  • The fossils were found near Seymour Island in an area of Antarctica with an abundance of penguin bones. Back then, the region was warmer, attracting many penguin species to live there together.

  • This find is the most complete fossil ever uncovered from the Antarctic, and features the longest known fused ankle-foot bone, in addition to parts of a wing bone.

  • In 2007, another giant penguin species was found in Peru. Known as Icadyptes salasi, this penguin lived around 36 million years ago and stood about 5 feet (1.5 m) tall.

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    • 37 million years ago, Antarctica was home to a penguin species that stood around 6’7” – far taller than today's emperor penguins (shown here).
      By: Christopher Michel
      37 million years ago, Antarctica was home to a penguin species that stood around 6’7” – far taller than today's emperor penguins (shown here).