ANCIENT penguins that once waddled around the US and Japan were 6ft 6in tall.
Plotopterids had long beaks, flipper-like wings and lived 37million years ago.
Giant plotopterids that stood at 6ft 6in tall would have roamed the US and Japan 37million years ago[/caption]
But even though they looked like penguins, they were a closer relation of cormorants.
They shared features with New Zealand penguins of 62million years ago but plotopterids fossils have been found in North America and Japan.
Dr Paul Scofield, of the Canterbury Museum, New Zealand, said: “They evolved in different hemi- spheres but you’d be hard pressed to tell them apart.
“Plotopterids looked like penguins, they swam like penguins, they probably ate like penguins – but they weren’t penguins.”
Both birds had long beaks with slit-like nostrils, similar chest and shoulder bones and used their wings to propel themselves deep underwater in search of food.
Dr Paul Scofield says ‘plotopterids looked like penguins, they swam like penguins, they probably ate like penguins’[/caption]
Giant animals that once roamed the Earth
Here’s some scarily large extinct creatures…
- Megalodon sharks – these giant sharks were three times as long as great whites, which are usually 3.5-6.4 metres, and 30 times as heavy
- Megalodons are thought to have lived around 15.9 to 2.6million years ago and had over 200 huge teeth
- Titanoboa cerrejonensis – this extinct giant snake species would have lived around 60million years ago and was twice as long as the largest modern day snake and weighed more than a tonne
- Terror birds – formally known as Phorusrhacids, this group of flightless birds from around 60 to 2million years ago would have been three metres tall and could have swallowed a medium sized dog in one gulp
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Dr Gerald Mayr at the Natural History Museum said: “Wing-propelled diving is quite rare among birds; most swimming birds use their feet.
“We think both penguins and plotodopterids had flying ancestors that would plunge from the air into the water in search of food.”
Dr Mayr added: “Over time these ancestor species got better at swimming and worse at flying.”
The difference in feet size between a plotopterid and an Emperor Penguin can be seen here[/caption]
Emperor penguins are the largest of all living penguin species alive today[/caption]
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