Prof Ewan Fordyce holds a 2014 collectable coin featuring the extinct giant Kairuku penguin. Photo by Sharron Bennett.
An extinct giant penguin species discovered by University of
Otago geologist Prof Ewan Fordyce has been emblazoned on a
collectable coin recently issued by New Zealand Post.
It is believed to be the first time the research findings of
an Otago University academic have been featured in this way.
The Kairuku penguin depicted on the coin was named by Prof
Fordyce and a team working from the university's geology
department in 2012.
It was ''very thrilling'' to have the image of a Kairuku
featured on the 2014 New Zealand Annual Coin.
''It's nice to see Otago research recognised in this way,''
The research, which led to the naming of the
previously-unknown species, was based on several fossils
found in South Canterbury and in North Otago.
The first discovery of Kairuku remains involved
27-million-year-old fossilised bones spotted ''by chance'' by
Prof Fordyce in 1977.
And the collectable coin further highlighted the growing
reputation of North Otago and South Canterbury as an
internationally significant ''hot spot'' for the discovery of
ancient marine fossils, he said.
He plans to keep his own copy of the coin close to hand,
bringing it out now and then to share with those who might
really appreciate it from a scientific perspective, including
the occasional visiting paleospheniscologist (fossil penguin
Just 1500 of the commemorative coins were minted in a series
produced annually by New Zealand Post to highlight endangered
The Kairuku giant penguins were taller than any other species
of penguin known to have lived in New Zealand, standing about
1.3m tall, and weighing at least 60kg.