Science & Technology

Giant Waikato Penguin: School Kids in New Zealand Discover New Species

The Kawhia big penguin Kairuku waewaeroa. Credit score Simone Giovanardi

A large fossilized penguin found by New Zealand college kids has been revealed as a brand new species in the peer-reviewed Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology by Massey College researchers.

Penguins have a fossil document reaching nearly way back to the age of the dinosaurs, and probably the most historical of those penguins have been found in Aotearoa. Fossil penguins from Zealandia (historical Aotearoa) are largely identified from Otago and Canterbury though vital discoveries have lately been made in Taranaki and Waikato.

In 2006 a bunch of college kids on a Hamilton Junior Naturalist Membership (JUNATS) fossil looking discipline journey in Kawhia Harbour, led by the membership’s fossil knowledgeable Chris Templer, found the bones of an enormous fossil penguin.

Researchers from Massey College and Bruce Museum (Connecticut, United States) visited Waikato Museum Te Whare Taonga o Waikato to investigate the fossil bones of the traditional penguin. The staff used 3D scanning as a part of their investigation and in contrast the fossil to digital variations of bones from world wide. 3D scanning additionally meant the staff might produce a 3D-printed reproduction of the fossil for the Hamilton Junior naturalists. The precise penguin fossil was donated by the membership to the Waikato Museum in 2017.

Dr. Daniel Thomas, a Senior Lecturer in Zoology from Massey’s School of Pure and Computational Sciences, says the fossil is between 27.3 and 34.6 million years previous and is from a time when a lot of the Waikato was underneath water.

“The penguin is much like the Kairuku big penguins first described from Otago however has for much longer legs, which the researchers used to call the penguin waewaeroa – Te reo Māori for ‘lengthy legs’. These longer legs would have made the penguin a lot taller than different Kairuku whereas it was strolling on land, maybe round 1.4 meters tall, and will have influenced how briskly it might swim or how deep it might dive,” Dr. Thomas says.

“It’s been an actual privilege to contribute to the story of this unbelievable penguin. We all know how vital this fossil is to so many individuals,” he provides.

Kairuku waewaeroa is emblematic for thus many causes. The fossil penguin reminds us that we share Zealandia with unbelievable animal lineages that attain deep into time, and this sharing offers us an vital guardianship position. The best way the fossil penguin was found, by kids out discovering nature, reminds us of the significance of encouraging future generations to change into kaitiaki [guardians].”

Mike Safey, President of the Hamilton Junior Naturalist Membership says it’s one thing the youngsters concerned will bear in mind for the remainder of their lives.

“It was a uncommon privilege for the youngsters in our membership to have the chance to find and rescue this monumental fossil penguin. We at all times encourage younger individuals to discover and benefit from the nice open air. There’s loads of cool stuff on the market simply ready to be found.”

Steffan Safey was there for each the invention and rescue missions. “It’s kind of surreal to know {that a} discovery we made as youngsters so a few years in the past is contributing to academia as we speak. And it’s a brand new species, even! The existence of big penguins in New Zealand is scarcely identified, so it’s actually nice to know that the group is continuous to check and be taught extra about them. Clearly, the day spent slicing it out of the sandstone was effectively spent!”

Dr. Esther Dale, a plant ecologist who now lives in Switzerland, was additionally there.

“It’s thrilling sufficient to be concerned with the invention of such a big and comparatively full fossil, not to mention a brand new species! I’m excited to see what we will be taught from it concerning the evolution of penguins and life in New Zealand.”

Alwyn Dale helped with the restoration of the fossil. “It was positively a kind of barely surreal issues to look again on — absolute bucket record second for me. After becoming a member of JUNATS there have been some fairly iconic tales of fantastic finds and particular experiences — and excavating an enormous penguin fossil has bought to be up there! An actual testomony to all of the dad and mom and volunteers who gave their time and sources to make distinctive and formative reminiscences for the membership members.”

Taly Matthews, a long-time member of the Hamilton Junior Naturalist Membership, and who works for the Division of Conservation in Taranaki, says, “Discovering any fossil is fairly thrilling when you concentrate on how a lot time has handed whereas this animal remained hidden away, encased in rock. Discovering an enormous penguin fossil although is on one other degree. As extra big penguin fossils are found we get to fill in extra gaps in the story. It’s very thrilling.”

The analysis is detailed additional in a paper entitled ‘A large Oligocene fossil penguin from the North Island of New Zealand’, printed as we speak in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology. The research describes Kairuku waewaeroa as a brand new species of fossil penguin and offers a extra full image of the variety of big penguins.

Reference: “A large Oligocene fossil penguin from the North Island of New Zealand” by Simone Giovanardi, Daniel T. Ksepka and Daniel B. Thomas, 16 September 2021, Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.
DOI: 10.1080/02724634.2021.1953047

The analysis was led by PhD scholar Simone Giovanardi, with Dr Daniel Ksepka, Bruce Museum and Dr Daniel Thomas, Massey College.

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