With the continued interest in prehistoric life on coins, it falls to the New Zealand Post to find a subject yet to grace a numismatic, a giant penguin. With bones first collected in 1977 by Dr. Ewan Fordyce, a paleontologist from the University of Otago, New Zealand, it wasn’t until 2011 that a reconstruction was undertaken and details about the animal more forthcoming.
The penguin was dubbed ‘Kairuku’, a Maori word that loosely translates to “diver who returns with food” and its body shape is different from any previously known penguin, living or extinct. Dated to the Oligocene approximately 25 MYA when New Zealand was mostly underwater, the isolated rocky outcrops that made up the country at the time were perfect breeding and fishing grounds for the penguins.
One of at least five species of penguin attributed to the region at that time, it stood around 1.3m (54″) tall with a slender body and long flippers, but short, thick legs and feet.