New species of enormous ancient penguin discovered by Hamilton school kids


(Image credit: Simone Giovanardi)

A group of Hamilton school kids, who headed out on a class fossil-hunting trip to Kawhia Harbour in 2006, have officially discovered an entirely new species of giant penguin that once roamed New Zealand.

The new species, named Waewaeroa (Māori for 'long legs') is similar to another giant penguin discovered in Otago in 2012 but has much longer legs.

After discovering the Waewaeroa bones, the kids from the Hamilton Junior Naturalist Club donated it to the Waikato Museum for safekeeping.

Massey scientists then teamed up with experts from the US to examine the fossil, taking years of painstaking analysis using 3D scanning to confirm Waewaeroa was distinct from other species of giant penguin that roamed the Earth long before humans - between 27 and 34 million years ago. 

What a cool find for those kids back in 2006! They will be stoked to have their findings officially identified, and we bet it's a field trip they will never, ever forget!