We’ve covered the topic of gigantic animals before, looking at ancient and terrifying huge versions of snakes and scary carnivorous reptiles. Now we’re going to take a look at ordinary animals that don’t usually make people feel afraid. From adorable penguins to sleepy sloths, there used to be giant versions of all these animals. No matter how cute their relatives are today, the giant versions are the things of nightmares.
Penguins are one of the most popular animals in the world. From documentaries on the extreme weather some species endure to animated classics depicting their zany antics, there is no doubt they are a beloved bird. Today there are 17–19penguin species, but not all scientists agree on the exact number. The smallest species is the little blue penguin, who are around 25–30 centimeters (10–12 in) tall and have an average weight of 4–7 kilograms (2–3 lbs). The largest is the famous emperor penguin, who live in Antarctica, reach heights of 113 centimeters (3.7 ft), and average in weight from 22–40 kilograms (50–90 lbs). Larger penguins tend to live in the colder climates, while more temperate locations—such as Australia and the Galapagos—are home to smaller species.
The emperors may be the biggest penguin today, but they can’t compare to their giant ancestors, who roamed the planet 36 million years ago. The water king could nearly stand face to face with modern humans at 152 centimeters (5 ft) tall and may have weighed up to 82 kilograms (180 lbs). These giant penguins were discovered in Peru in 2010.
Besides being one of the biggest species of penguin ever to be uncovered, they were also more colorful than their descendants. The water king didn’t don the usual black and white tuxedo, but opted for gray and red instead. Scientists hypothesize that this giant penguin wasn’t as graceful or fast in the water as modern penguins because it hadn’t evolved the specializations that give their animal family such speed in the ocean, which is why it may have still been rocking the differently colored plumage.
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