Updated: Aug 1, 2019
Was the biggest penguin that ever lived really 2 metres tall?
The world’s largest living species of penguin—and, indeed, one of the world’s largest living birds—is the Emperor penguin, which stands an impressive 110cm (43 inches) tall, and weighs in at a hefty 50kg (110 lbs). Only emus, cassowaries and ostriches grow any larger.
But in 2014, an ankle bone discovered on Seymour Island in Antarctica was found to belong to a long extinct species of penguin that might once have grown to almost twice that size.
The bone in question was roughly 9cm in length, considerably larger than that of any living penguin species. Analysis of its size and shape suggested that it belonged to a bird that would have stood some 2m (78 inches) tall, perhaps weighed as much as 115kg (250 lbs), and had a lung capacity allowing it to remain underwater for 40 minutes at a time. Appropriately enough, this extraordinary species—officially known as Palaeeudyptes klekowskii—was given the common name ‘colossus penguin’.
These colossus penguins would have wandered Antarctica sometime around 37–40 million years ago—at which time it was a considerably milder and more hospitable place than it is today, providing the penguins with enough sustenance to grow to such an incredible size.