Kawhia giant penguin brought to virtual life

A 28 million-year-old giant penguin fossil found at Kawhia in 2006. The fossil was found by members of the Hamilton ...
Waikato Museum

A 28 million-year-old giant penguin fossil found at Kawhia in 2006. The fossil was found by members of the Hamilton Junior Naturalist Club.

What began as a chance discovery of a 28 million-year-old giant penguin fossil has led to Waikato's ancient history being brought back to virtual life.

Waikato Museum has used 3D scanning technology to create a profile of the Kawhia giant penguin using its fossilised remains.

The fossil was discovered on the beach at Kawhia in January 2006 by members of the Hamilton Junior Naturalist Club.

A painting of the Kawhia giant penguin by Ronald Cometti.
Simon Cometti and Amanda Wilson

A painting of the Kawhia giant penguin by Ronald Cometti.

The discovery earned the club one of the country's most prestigious geological awards - the Wellman Award from the Geological Society of New Zealand.

Waikato Museum, in partnership with Massey University, have put together an exhibition entitled Giant in the North, which includes a 3D profile of the fossil.

Massey University palaeontologist Dr Daniel Thomas did the scan and hoped the 3D image would help researchers formally identify the Kawhia penguin.

The penguin lived during the Oligocene epoch, about 28 million years ago.

Standing up, the penguin would have stood about 1.5 metres tall and weighed about 100kg - larger than modern-day emperor penguins.

Thomas said the artefact was the largest and most complete fossil bird "from a very important time in the history of the North Island".

The only parts missing from the penguin fossil are the head, the ankles and the wingtips.

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Giant in the North will also feature other fossils from the same geological time of the Kawhia giant penguin, such as a specimen of an ancient shark.

* Giant in the North opens at Waikato Museum on June 13. Dr Daniel Thomas will give a free public lecture on penguin evolution and the Kawhia giant penguin at the museum on June 13 from 2pm - 2.45pm.

 - Stuff

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