Waitaki penguin

Kairuku waitaki Ksepka, Fordyce, Ando & Jones, 2012

Order: Sphenisciformes

Family: Spheniscidae

New Zealand status: Endemic

Conservation status: Extinct

 
 
Waitaki penguin. Toes of holotype in Geology Museum, University of Otago, registration number OU 12652. Waihao Valley, South Canterbury. Image © Used with permission, Geology Museum, University of Otago by Alan Tennyson

Waitaki penguin. Toes of holotype in Geology Museum, University of Otago, registration number OU 12652. Waihao Valley, South Canterbury. 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.

The Waitaki penguin is known from a single skeleton found on the bank of the Waihao River, South Canterbury. This is the same locality where the second (referred) specimen of Grebneff’s penguin and the holotype of Maxwell’s penguin were collected. The Waitaki penguin was slightly smaller than the two Grebneff’s penguins, and had a down-turned tip to the upper beak among other skeletal differences.

The holotype skeleton (OU 12652) is 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 is named after the large river that forms the boundary between Canterbury and Otago.

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. Waitaki penguin. In Miskelly, C.M. (ed.) New Zealand Birds Online. www.nzbirdsonline.org.nz

Waitaki penguin

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