Discover the 51 Extinct Penguin Species

Penguin Skeleton
© iStock.com/3D Horse

Written by Taiwo Victor

Updated: October 31, 2022

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Even the coldest heart will warm up when watching penguins gather together for warmth or waddle across slick ice. They are clumsy and goofy on land but become astonishingly graceful when swimming beneath the ocean’s waves. Penguins are among the world’s most fascinating and endearing bird species, but even though they capture the attention of everyone who sees them, they aren’t as well protected as they need to be.

Like the polar bear on the opposite side of the planet, the penguin goes through nearly inconceivable suffering to mate and raise every new generation, fasting for months during the Earth’s natural coldest winter and living exclusively off of energy reserves from a previous meal of fish. However, this amazing bird must contend with new and unanticipated challenges, most notably the swift acceleration of global warming. How many penguin species have already gone extinct?

Though well suited to their surroundings, penguins cannot cope with the negative impact of humans. Many penguins are particularly concerned about climate change as the sea ice they rely on to gather food or build nests is melting in front of their very eyes. In this article, we will discover the 51 extinct penguins and other interesting facts.

51 Extinct Penguin Species

1. Ridgen’s Penguin (Aptenodytes ridgeni)

An extinct species of penguin from the Pliocene of New Zealand, the Ridgen’s penguin was between the size of its living congeners, measuring roughly 35 and 40 inches (90–100 cm) tall. The remains were initially discovered in 1968 by 11-year-old Alan Ridgen on a beach in the Canterbury region. Although there is no known description, they most likely resembled modern penguins.

2. Archaeospheniscus wimani

Archaeospheniscus wimani is an extinct penguin species. It was the smallest member in the genus Archaeospheniscus, standing between 30 and 33 inches (75 to 85 cm) tall, or roughly the height of a gentoo penguin. Because its bones were discovered in the Middle or Late Eocene strata (34–50 MYA) of the La Meseta Formation on Seymour Island, Antarctica, it is also the oldest species of its genus.

It possesses a thin humerus that resembles a modern bird that can fly more than a penguin, even though it isn’t likely that Archaeospheniscus was capable of flight.

3. Chatham Penguin (Eudyptes warhami)

Chatham Penguin (Eudyptes warhami)

Chatham penguins probably stood roughly 24 inches tall and weighed up to 13.1 lbs.

©Sean Murtha / CC BY-SA 4.0 – Original / License

The Chatham penguin, also referred to as the Warham’s penguin is an extinct species of crested penguin species that was once native to the Chatham Islands in New Zealand. Only subfossil bones exist for it, and it likely must have gone extinct 150–200 years after Polynesians first arrived in the Chatham Islands around 1450 AD.

They probably stood roughly 24 inches (60 cm) tall and weighed between 3.7 and 5.9 kg (8.2 to 13.1 lbs). Their heads had quite a yellow feather crest running from the tip of the beak over the eyes to the top of the head.

4. Kairaku grebneffi

Kairaku grebneffi

The Kairuku grebneffi was one of the tallest and heaviest penguins.

©Tim Bertelink / CC BY-SA 4.0 – Original / License

A huge extinct penguin species called Kairuku grebneffi is one of the tallest and heaviest penguins, with a weight of 50% more than that of modern emperor penguins. Its long, narrow bill and lean body were the distinguishing traits of the species. It likely used to catch fish and squid and could dive deeper and swim farther than living penguins. Sharks and squalodons were probably the bird’s main predators. Kairuku grebneffi, which went extinct around 25 million years ago, existed in what is now New Zealand during the late Oligocene. The species’ bones were originally found in 1977, but it wasn’t until 2012 that it was recognized as a distinct species.

One of the last giant penguins was Kairuku Grebneffi. Its demise is unclear, but according to Tatsuro Ando, one of the experts who categorized the penguin, it was likely caused by “the drastic change in paleoenvironment.” The emergence of new predators and greater food competition are further reasons.

5. Colossus Penguin (Palaeeudyptes klekowskii)

Colossus Penguin (Palaeeudyptes klekowskii)

The largest penguin to ever exist on Earth was the colossus penguin.

©A. C. Tatarinov / CC0 1.0 – Original / License

The “colossus penguin” was the largest penguin ever to exist on Earth. The enormous species of penguin, which stood up to 8 feet tall and weighed more than 250 pounds, was twice as tall as huge emperor penguins are now.

The colossus penguin is undoubtedly an adept hunter. This particular penguin might have been able to remain underwater for up to 40 minutes because larger penguins can hold their breath longer. To put this into perspective, most whales and dolphins can only maintain their breath underwater for 20 minutes. The southern part of Antarctica, where the climate was more hospitable, and the food supply was abundant, was home to the gigantic penguin in its natural habitat; this may have contributed to its high population as they had no natural enemies.

There is still a lot to discover about this extinct species since the first colossus penguin skeletal remains were discovered in 2014. Colossus penguins are thought to have existed about 37 million years ago, but they may not always be the largest. The possibility of discovering a species even larger in the future exists since ancient penguins once inhabited Antarctica, where fossil remains frequently lie buried behind vast snowdrifts.

A Complete List of Extinct Penguins

Many people can immediately recognize penguins thanks to their soft white bellies, black plumage, and cuddly waddle. But the bird’s celebrity status hasn’t spared it from the ravages of natural selection. Below are the 51 extinct species and genus of penguins:

  • A

Anthropodyptes

Anthropornis

Aptenodytes ridgeni

Archaeospheniscus

Archaeospheniscus lopdelli

Archaeospheniscus lowei

Archaeospheniscus wimani

Arthrodytes

  • C

Crossvallia

  • D

Delphinornis

Duntroonornis

  • E

Eudyptes warhami

  • I

Icadyptes

Inguza

Inkayacu

  • K

Kaiika

Kairuku

Kairuku grebneffi

Kairuku waewaeroa

Korora

Kumimanu

  • M

Marambiornopsis

Marplesornis

Muriwaimanu

  • P

Pachydyptes

Palaeeudyptes

Palaeeudyptes antarcticus

Palaeeudyptes gunnari

Palaeeudyptes klekowskii

Palaeeudyptes marplesi

Palaeeudyptinae

Palaeospheniscus

Palaeospheniscus bergi

Palaeospheniscus bilocular

Palaeospheniscus gracilis

Palaeospheniscus patagonicus

Palaeospheniscus wimani

Paraptenodytes

Paraptenodytes brodkorbi

Paraptenodytes robustus

Waitaha penguin

Perudyptes

Platydyptes

Pseudaptenodytes

Pygoscelis tyreei

  • S

Sequiwaimanu

Spheniscus anglicus

Spheniscus megaramphus

Spheniscus muizoni

  • T

Tereingaornis

  • W

Waimanu

Extinct water bird, Waimanu

Waimanu appears to be a transitional species between ancient waterfowls and modern ones like ducks and geese, which have longer legs and smaller bills than their ancestors did.

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About the Author

For six years, I have worked as a professional writer and editor for books, blogs, and websites, with a particular focus on animals, tech, and finance. When I'm not working, I enjoy playing video games with friends.

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