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Penguin fossil joins Waikato collection

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 16/02/2017

A 28-million-year-old fossil of a giant penguin discovered at Kawhia is to become an official part of Waikato Museum's science collection.

A group of young explorers from the Hamilton Junior Naturalist Club (JUNATs) found the fossil at Te Waitere inlet in 2006.

It was embedded in a layer of rock called the Whaingaroa Formation.

Since its discovery, the fossil has been cared for at Waikato Museum while on loan from the natural history group.

Preliminary findings from initial analyses of the fossil suggest the giant penguin may have reached 1.5m in height and weighed as much as 100kg.

By comparison, an emperor penguin stands at 1.15m and weighs 30kg.

Museum director Cherie Meecham says the ancient species the fossilised penguin belonged to has yet to be determined.

But its incorporation into the museum's collection on Friday will allow formal identification studies to begin.

She thanked the generosity of JUNATs, which was founded in 1962 for natural history enthusiasts aged 10 to 18.

JUNATs president Mike Safey said the fossil was one of the best intact specimens in the world and the club was delighted to gift it to the museum.

"We hope this will inspire many more young people to get out there and explore what other secrets still lie hidden in the landscape so close to Hamilton."

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