50 Extinct Penguin Species You Never Knew Once Existed

According to estimations, mother Earth is home to over 8.7 million different species. More than 99% of all species that ever lived on Earth, amounting to over five billion species, have died out. It is the norm for new species to evolve to fit the ever-changing ecological niches and for older species to fade away. 

You may only think of penguins as flightless birds that waddle around the Antarctic. In reality, penguins are fascinating creatures that evolved roughly 14 million years ago. Their first origins have been traced close to New Zealand where because of the absence of any land predators, these birds were able to find a safe haven.

While penguins are well adapted to freezing temperatures, climate change and other human practices like overfishing have become a danger to their existence in recent years. With threats like the increase in global temperatures, melting ice caps, and habitat loss looming over the species, penguins can now only be found in a few regions within the Southern hemisphere.

While penguins may only be a family of 17 to 19 species now, there are an estimated 51 species of penguins that have gone extinct over the millions of years they’ve existed. Here are all the details you need to know about the 50 different species of these intriguing birds, some of which went extinct millions of years ago.

1. Aptenodytes ridgeni

Also referred to as Ridgen’s Penguin, it is an extinct species of penguin from New Zealand. These species lived during the Pliocene some 5.3 to 2.8 million years ago. The remains of their well-preserved leg bones were first found in 1968 in the Canterbury region.

2. Anthropornis

They lived from the Late Eocene to the earliest part of the Oligocene, about 45 to 33 million years ago. These penguins are part of the genus of giant penguins and stood to about 1.8 meters in height.

3. Anthropodyptes gilli

This species belongs to a poorly known monotypic genus of extinct penguins known as the Anthropodyptes. Its fossils were found in Australia.

4. Archaeospheniscus lopdelli

They were the largest species of the extinct penguin from the genus Archaeospheniscus. Scientists discovered their fossils around the Duntroon, New Zealand, Seymour Island, and Antarctica. These penguins stood 90-120 cm high.

5. Archaeospheniscus lowei

Archaeospheniscus lowei is the type species of the extinct penguin genus Archaeospheniscus. It is only known from the remains of a femur from a single individual traced back to regions in New Zealand. It stood approximately 85–115 cm high.

6. Archaeospheniscus wimani

Archaeospheniscus wimani were the smallest of all of the penguins belonging to the genus Archaeospheniscus. They were approximately 75-85 cm in height.

7. Arthrodytes

Arthrodytes was a genus of extinct penguins that contained a single known species. They lived during the Late Eocene to Early Oligocene.

8. Eudyptes warhami

The Chatham penguin, also known as the Chatham crested penguin, Chatham Islands penguin, or Warham’s penguin, is an extinct species of crested penguin previously endemic to the Chatham Islands of New Zealand. The term crested penguin is the common name given collectively to species of penguins of the genus Eudyptes. It is known only from subfossil bones and probably became extinct within 150–200 years after Polynesians arrived in the Chatham Islands around 1450 AD.

9. Duntroonornis parvus

Duntroonornis parvus, also known as the Duntroon penguin, is a genus and species of extinct penguins from the Late Oligocene of New Zealand. We know it existed because of the fossil material collected near Duntroon between the Canterbury and Otago regions. This species of penguin was relatively small.

10. Delphinornis

Delphinornis is an extinct genus of penguins that lived around the middle Eocene to the middle Miocene in Antarctica.

11. Crossvallia waiparensis

The genus Crossvallia became known to the world after Paleocene age remains were found in New Zealand. They lived during the Late Paleocene some 59.2 to 56 million years ago. This species is among the world’s oldest known penguins and is also one of the largest, being 1.6 meters in height. They are 4 meters taller than the largest modern penguin, the emperor penguin, and weigh up to 70 to 80 kilograms.

12. Crossvallia unienwillia

Belonging to the genus Crossvallia, these penguins were discovered due to the remains found in Cross Valley, Antarctica. The leg bones of this species suggest that its feet were better equipped to handle swimming, in comparison to modern penguins. They are the fifth species of penguin known to come from the Waipara Greensand site, suggesting that this site was an area with a significant amount of penguin diversity during the Paleocene.

13. Hunter Island Penguin

The Hunter Island penguin (Tasidyptes hunteri) is a species of penguin that was found on Hunter Island, in the Bass Strait. It’s 5 km off the western end of the north coast of Tasmania, Australia. The Hunter Island penguin has been extinct since the Early Holocene. According to estimates, it went extinct about 11,700 years ago.

14. Icadyptes salasi

Icadyptes salasi is one of the largest species of penguins to have ever existed. In fact, it is the third largest penguin known to man. Icadyptes is an extinct genus of giant penguins from the Late Eocene tropics of South America. This species lived about 36 million years ago. They had long spear-like beaks and stood about 5 feet tall.

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15. Inguza predemersus

The South African penguin (Inguza predemersus), also known as the dwarf African penguin, lived in the Late Pliocene in waters around South Africa around 5 million years ago. They are considered to be the smallest penguins in Africa.

16. Inkayacu paracasensis

Inkayacu is a genus of extinct penguins. It lived in what is now Peru during the Late Eocene, around 36 million years ago. Its name when translated means water king. It had paddle-like wings with short feathers and a very long bill. A study of their melanosomes, pigment-containing organelles within the feathers, indicated that they were grey or reddish brown. Inkayacu was about 1.5 meters (5 ft) long.

17. Tereingaornis moisleyi

Tereingaornis moisleyi is also referred to as Moisley’s penguin. It is a genus and species of extinct penguin from the Middle Pliocene of New Zealand. Moisley’s penguin was the first fossil penguin to be named after the North Island. It is estimated to have lived during the Pliocene (3.6-3.0 million years ago). 

18. Muriwaimanu tuatahi

Muriwaimanu is an extinct genus of early penguins. Fossils were discovered in 1980 around Waipara Greensand near the Waipara River, in Canterbury, New Zealand.

19. Marambiornopsis sobrali

Marambiornopsis is an extinct genus of Eocene penguin from the Submeseta Formation in Antarctica. It contains one species, Marambiornopsis sobrali.

20. Kaiika maxwelli

Kaiika was a genus of penguin that lived during the Early Eocene some 56 to 47.8 million years ago. There are only one single known species, which was discovered in 1998 from a humerus bone fossil. 

It is one of the oldest known species of penguin known to science. Evidence suggests that Kaiika maxwelli was one of the last survivors of the “first generation” of penguins, including Waimanu manneringi and Waimnau tuatahi, who plied the waters of New Zealand about 55 million years ago. 

21. Kumimanu Biceae

Kumimanu biceae was a genus and species of giant penguins that lived between 60 and 56 million years ago. The name translates from Maori to “monster bird,” which is apt given they stood as high as 1.77 meters and weighed up to 91 kg. They are the second-largest penguins ever found.

22. Korora Oliveri

Oliver’s Penguin or Korora Oliveri was a genus and species of penguin that lived between the Late Oligocene and Early Miocene some 28 to 0.05 million years ago. It was relatively small, slender, and found near New Zealand.

23. Kairuku waewaeroa

Kairuku waewaeroa follows a long line of ancient giant penguins discovered in New Zealand. The name “Kairuku” is taken from the Maori language and loosely translates to “diver who returns with food.”

24. Kairuku grebneffi

The penguin dubbed Kairuku grebneffi lived about 27 million years ago. Most of New Zealand was underwater at the time, with only today’s mountaintops emerging from the sea. This made for excellent coastal nesting grounds for several penguin species.

25. Kairuku waitaki

Kairuku is an extinct genus of penguins. This penguin is named after the large river that flows through modern Canterbury and Otago. They had slender proportions in comparison to today’s living penguins, with an elongated trunk, narrow bill, and long, narrower wing bones. 

Their legs, on the other hand, were quite robust. Overall, the skeleton conveys an elegant bird, sleek yet powerful. A standing Kairuku penguin would have reached about 4 feet 2 inches.

26. Marplesornis novaezealandiae

Marplesornis novaezealandiaem is also referred to as Harris’ Penguin. It was a genus and species of penguin that lived sometime between the Early Miocene and Late Pliocene. Due to the geology of the fossil site, its exact age is unknown. It was found near New Zealand and stood between 70 and 100 cm tall.

27. Pachydyptes

Pachydyptes was a genus of extinct giant penguins that contained a single species known as the New Zealand Giant Penguin. It lived during the Late Eocene some 37 to 34 million years ago. With a maximum height of 160 cm, they are the second-tallest penguins known to exist. They were also relatively heavy, with a maximum weight of 100 kg.

28. Platydyptes marplesi 

A genus of extinct penguins from the Late Oligocene to the Early Miocene, (about 27.3 to 21.7 million years ago), the Platydyptes penguins’ fossils were found in New Zealand. Platydyptes marplesi also referred to as Simpson’s penguin were the smallest species of the genus.

29. Platydyptes novaezealandiae 

Platydyptes novaezealandiae were wide-flippered penguins. The origins of these relatively large species were traced back to north Otago to the south of the Canterbury region on the South Island.

30. Platydyptes amiesi

Also known as Amies’ penguins, they are the largest species of the genus. They are about the size of a king penguin, though with longer flippers.

31. Palaeeudyptes gunnari 

Palaeeudyptes gunnari is an extinct species of the penguin genus Palaeeudyptes. It stood between 110 and 125 cm tall and was approximately the size of an emperor penguin.

32. Palaeeudyptes antarcticus

Palaeeudyptes antarcticus, also referred to as the narrow-flippered penguin, is a species that belonged to the extinct penguin genus Palaeeudyptes. Members of this species were massive in size, albeit probably with a lot of size variations.

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33. Palaeeudyptes klekowskii 

Palaeeudyptes klekowskii, also known as the colossus penguin, existed around 37 to 40 million years ago. It was 2 meters long and weighed a hefty 115 kilograms.

34. Palaeeudyptinae

Palaeeudyptinae is a subfamily of penguins known as giant penguins. The various genera lived from the Middle or Late Eocene to the Late Oligocene. These species have been found in regions like New Zealand, South America, Antarctica, and possibly Australia. 

Many species within this subfamily had non-rigid wings, which had lost the avian feathers, but retained some flexibility similar to the biology of birds capable of flight. Despite this, they were flightless.

35. Palaeospheniscus Bergi

Palaeospheniscus bergi is a species of extinct penguin from the genus Palaeospheniscus. It lived during the Early Miocene some 23 to 5.3 million years ago. This species stood about 60 to 75 centimeters high. They were somewhat smaller on average than the extant African penguins.

36. Paraptenodytes robustus

Paraptenodytes robustus is a species of the extinct penguin genus Paraptenodytes. They lived from the Early to Middle Miocene to the Early Pliocene some 23 to 2.5 million years ago. It was medium-sized, an estimated 70 to 80 centimeters tall. 

37. Perudyptes Devriesi

Perudyptes devriesi is a basal genus and species of penguins from the Middle Eocene period some 56 to 33.9 million years ago. This species lived in the warm equatorial waters of what is now Peru.

38. Pseudaptenodytes

Pseudaptenodytes was a genus of penguins with only one confirmed species known from the fossils of a small selection of bones. They lived from the Late Miocene to the Early Pliocene some 23 to 2.58 million years ago.

39. Spheniscus Muizoni

Spheniscus muizoni was a species of banded penguins that lived during the early Late Miocene some 13.8 to 11.6 million years ago. It is the earliest known member of the extant genus. It was first described in 2007. They were considerably smaller than many other extinct penguins, weighing around 3,800 grams (8.4 lbs).

40. Sequiwaimanu Rosieae

Sequiwaimanu rosieae was a species of the genus Sequiwaimanu. It lived during the mid-Paleocene some 66 to 56 million years ago. These fossils were traced back to Waipara Greensand in New Zealand.

41. Spheniscus megaramphus

Spheniscus megaramphus is an extinct species of penguin that lived during the Late Miocene (present Peru) in South America. It is considered the largest known species of banded penguin with large beaks.

42. Waimanu manneringi

Waimanu was a genus of early penguins which lived during the Paleocene. Like modern penguins, it was flightless. Although, its wing bones were similar to birds capable of flight. They likely lived around 60 to 65 million years ago. It is the oldest known genus of penguins ever found.

43. Megadyptes waitaha

The Waitaha penguin (Megadyptes waitaha) is an extinct species of New Zealand penguin. They are thought to have gone extinct between 1,300 and 1,500 years ago after Polynesian settlers arrived in New Zealand. They were most likely hunted to extinction.

44. Pygoscelis tyreei

Pygoscelis tyreei is also referred to as Tyree’s Penguin. It is a species of extinct penguin that lived during the Late Pliocene some 5.3 to 2.8 million years ago. A single fossil was collected from Motunau Beach in North Canterbury in 1972. They stood approximately 80 cm in height.

45. Palaeeudyptes marplesi

Once native to New Zealand, their fossils were discovered near Burnside, Dunedin. Palaeeudyptes was a species of large bird that stood approximately 105-145 centimeters tall. 

They were larger than Emperor penguins. The discovery involved finding a pair of leg bones. The species was named after famous fossil researcher Brian J. Marples.

46. Palaeospheniscus bilocular

Palaeospheniscus bilocular are the size of a small gentoo penguin. They were species of penguins whose fossils were found near Chubut Province, Argentina. They belong to the genus Palaeospheniscus and existed around the Early Miocene.

47. Palaeospheniscus gracilis

Palaeospheniscus gracilis are the smallest members of their species and they existed around the Early Oligocene even though another bone was found near the Cabeza Blanca that seemed to have been displaced and wound up on a later stratum. 

They were roughly around the size of the Galapagos penguins today, on average. Some researchers even suggest they are synonymous with another species known as the Palaeospheniscus bergi.

48. Palaeospheniscus patagonicus

Roughly the size of an African penguin, the patagonicus was around 65-75 centimeters. They were found in the Early Miocene strata of the Gaiman Formation in Chubut Provine, Argentina.  

49. Palaeospheniscus wimani

Synonymous with the patagonicus, these extinct penguins were native to the Gaiman and Trelew regions of the Chubut Province too. They were the largest member of their genus and have a lot of fossils attributed to them. 

They were about the size of a Magellanic penguin. They’re named after Carl Wiman, a leading prehistoric penguin researcher during his time.

50. Paraptenodytes brodkorbi

With only a single humerus to claim they exist, the brodkorbi is a species of extinct penguins whose existence is highly contested. They were almost the same size as a king penguin and the fossil was found in the Early Miocene strata in the Monte León Formation near Santa Cruz Province, Argentina.

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Nadine Oraby

My name is Nadine; I am a passionate writer and a pet lover. People usually call me by the nickname “Joy” because they think that I am a positive and joyful person who is a child at heart. My love for animals triggered me to create this blog. Articles are written by vets, pet experts, and me. Thanks for visiting. Your friend, Nadine!

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