When you watch March of the Penguins or Happy Feet, you don’t get a good perspective of how big Emperor penguins are: they are over four feet tall and can weigh over 100 pounds! But that size pales against the extinct penguin species Palaeeudyptes klekowskii, which lived between 37 and 40 million years ago. Recently found bones indicate that this penguin was over two meters long! Its standing height would be somewhat less, estimated at about 1.6 meters, or 5’3”. Carolina Acosta Hospitaleche of the La Plata Museum in Argentina led an expedition that found the bones in Terra del Fuego, the southern tip of Argentina.
The site has yielded thousands of penguin bones. Earlier this year, Acosta Hospitaleche reported the most complete P. klekowskii skeleton yet, although it contained only about a dozen bones, mostly from the wings and feet (Geobios, DOI: 10.1016/j.geobios.2014.03.003).
Now she has uncovered two bigger bones. One is part of a wing, and the other is a tarsometatarsus, formed by the fusion of ankle and foot bones. The tarsometatarsus measures a record 9.1 centimetres. Based on the relative sizes of bones in penguin skeletons, Acosta Hospitaleche estimates P. klekowskii was 2.01 meters long from beak tip to toes.