WAIPARA — A report published in the Australasian Journal of Paleontology announces the discovery of a large leg bones attributed to a species of penguins that stood five feet tall. While researchers state that the find helps to shed light on the evolution of penguins, Christians note that the penguins are still penguins and there was simply variation within the kind.
“The fossils discovered [in New Zealand] have made our understanding of penguin evolution a whole lot clearer,” Dr. Gerald Mayr of the Senckenberg Research Institute and Natural History Museum in Frankfurt, Germany, one of the authors of the report, said in a statement.
The leg bones were found by amateur paleontologist Leigh Love in 2018 at the Waipara Greensand fossil site in North Canterbury. A team of researchers, comprised of Mayr and Drs. Paul Scofield and Vanesa De Pietri of the Canterbury Museum, analyzed the fossils and concluded that they belonged to penguins.
It is estimated that the bird — named as species Crossvallia waiparensis — stood about 5’3″ and weighed 170 pounds, larger than any penguin currently living. Emperor penguins stand nearly 4 feet tall.
“The entire size of this bird is difficult to estimate, since mainly leg bones are known,” Mayr told Forbes. “However, these are about 1.2 times larger than those of the emperor penguin. Thus, the new species may have had a height of about 1.4-1.5 meters.”
He and others place the penguin as living during what is called by evolutionists the Paleocene Epoch of 66 to 56 million years ago — 30 million years after dinosaurs are stated to have become extinct. They also believe because of the structure of the leg bones that ancient penguins either swam much more than modern penguins or they hadn’t yet adapted to walking on land.
“Roughly 50 million to 100 million years ago, different species of flying birds — forebearers of today’s albatrosses and petrels — slowly evolved into the flightless birds that became penguins,” Fen Montaigne, journalist for National Geographic, claims.
“This evolution occurred for several reasons. These proto-penguins lived on islands in the Southern Hemisphere where they encountered no predators on land, and, thus, had no need to fly,” he asserts. “The oceans also were filled with food and so, slowly, over millions of years, natural selection favored a bird that could swim long distances, foraging for food and fattening up to the point where it could no longer take to the air.”
Mayr and team likewise believe that the penguins evolved quickly because of ideal water temperatures — and later shrunk down to smaller sizes. They postulate that the giant penguins survived for millions of years as “there were no large marine competitors until the arrival of toothed whales and pinnipeds many million years later.”
“We think that at the time, animals were evolving very rapidly,” Scofield said. “Water temperatures around New Zealand were ideal back then, around 25C (77F) compared to the 8C (46F) we have now.”
The fossils aren’t the first to be found in the region, and other larger-than-usual animals from yesteryear have also been discovered in New Zealand, including a giant parrot and a mega eagle.
“The new species is the fifth penguin species from the Waipara Greensand and the third ‘giant’ penguin from the Paleocene of New Zealand. It seems that New Zealand played an important role in the evolution of penguins and I look forward to the new fossils that will be found in the next years,” Mayr stated.
Christian News Network reached out to the Institute for Creation Research for their take on the discovery. Brian Thomas, a research associate who holds a doctorate in paleo-biochemistry from the University of Liverpool, expressed disagreement with the evolutionary speculations surrounding the discovery, including the dating of the fossils and the assertion that the penguins evolved due to warmer water temperatures.
“The millions of years age assignment comes not from science but from traditions that have tried to bypass evidence for Noah’s Flood,” he said. “This world-covering Flood explains the vastness of Earth’s rock layers, and it happened several thousand years ago.”
“Since when do external factors engineer technical solutions?” Thomas also asked surrounding the claim that environment shaped the penguin’s evolution. “This kind of rhetoric is like saying that if you expose buildings to hurricane winds, they will beef up their own architecture. Cool stuff doesn’t just make itself.”
He said that the Lord is worthy of recognition for programming penguins to be so diverse.
“In reality, the Creator deserves credit for engineering biological solutions to foreseen external factors. God deserves credit for inserting into the first penguins internal factors that allowed offspring to vary their body sizes,” Thomas stated. “Like so many other animals and plants, the largest varieties have gone extinct — perhaps partly because of the rigors of the Flood and Ice Age that followed.”
Roger Patterson of Answers in Genesis also commented on the matter on Monday during the Answers News broadcast, stating that the find is confirmation that penguins were in existence either pre or post Flood, that they have diversity in size among themselves — and that there was no evolutionary transformation as penguins still exist today.
“Penguins are still penguins,” he noted. “Shocking news.”