Grebneff's penguin

Kairuku grebneffi Ksepka, Fordyce, Ando & Jones, 2012

Order: Sphenisciformes

Family: Spheniscidae

New Zealand status: Endemic

Conservation status: Extinct

Other names: Grebneffs penguin

 
 
Grebneff's penguin. Tarsometatarsus of holotype in Geology Museum, University of Otago, registration number OU 22094. Waipati catchment, Near Duntroon, Otago, January 1991. Image © Used with permission, Geology Museum, University of Otago by Alan Tennyson

Grebneff's penguin. Tarsometatarsus of holotype in Geology Museum, University of Otago, registration number OU 22094. Waipati catchment, Near Duntroon, Otago, January 1991. Image © Used with permission, Geology Museum, University of Otago by Alan Tennyson

The two Kairuku penguins were described from three remarkably complete skeletons – a contrast to most other fossil penguins. They were both very large species, equalling the New Zealand giant penguin in height though not in weight. Both lived during the Late Oligocene, 27-26 million years ago, and were found in North Otago and South Canterbury. In addition to the three named specimens, at least five further part skeletons have been identified to genus level.

Grebneff’s penguin is known from two skeletons: the holotype was found in the Waipati catchment of the Maerewhenua River near Duntroon, north Otago; and a referred specimen from the bank of the Waihao River, South Canterbury. The Waihao River is also the type location for both the Waitaki penguin and Maxwell’s penguin.

Grebneff’s penguin was apparently slightly larger than the Waitaki penguin, and had a straight tip to the upper beak among other skeletal differences. It was estimated to stand about 1.3 metres tall when in a relaxed pose, and any estimates of fossil penguin heights taller than this need to be taken with a large grain of salt.

The holotype skeleton (OU 22094) and referred specimen (OU 22065) are held in the Geology Museum, University of Otago. The genus name means ‘food-diver’, based on Māori ‘kai’ (food, eat) and ‘ruku’ (dive), with the connotation of returning with food. The species name honours Andrew Grebneff (1959-2010), paleontologist and specimen preparator at University of Otago from 1985-2010.

Weblinks

http://www.otago.ac.nz/geology/research/paleontology/otago067613.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kairuku

References

Fordyce, R.E. 1991. A new look at the fossil vertebrate record of New Zealand. Pp 1191-1316 in Vickers-Rich, P.; Monaghan, J.M.; Baird, R.F.; & Rich, T.H. (eds) Vertebrate palaeontology of Australasia. Melbourne, Pioneer Design Studio and Monash University Publications Committee.

Fordyce, R.E.; Jones, C.M. 1990. Penguin history and new fossil material from New Zealand. Pp 419-446 in Davis, L.S. & Darby, J.T. (eds) Penguin biology. San Diego, Academic Press.

Ksepka, D.T.; Fordyce, R.E.; Ando, T.; Jones, C.M. 2012. New fossil penguins (Aves: Sphenisciformes) from the Oligocene of New Zealand reveal the skeletal plan of stem penguins. Journal of Vertebrate Palaeontology 32: 235-254.

Recommended citation

Miskelly, C.M. 2013. Grebneff’s penguin. In Miskelly, C.M. (ed.) New Zealand Birds Online. www.nzbirdsonline.org.nz

Grebneff's penguin

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