Ancient penguins
Plotopterids like these Copepteryx looked remarkably like penguins Mark Witton

A new study conducted by a team of researchers has discovered ancient penguin-like creatures that were 6 feet 6 inches tall. According to the researchers who took part in this study, these creatures might have roamed across the modern-day United States and Japan, around 37 million years ago.

Were These Creatures Actually Penguins?

These creatures named Plotopterids had long beaks and flipper-like wings. Even though these ancient creatures looked like penguins, they were actually a close relative of cormorants. These creatures also shared close features with penguins in New Zealand.

"They evolved in different hemispheres but you'd be hard-pressed to tell them apart. Plotopterids looked like penguins, they swam like penguins, they probably ate like penguins - but they weren't penguins," said Dr Paul Scofield, a researcher at the Canterbury Museum, New Zealand, in a recent press release.

Interestingly, plotopterids had a very long beak with slit-like nostrils, chest and shoulder similar to penguins, which helped them to sneak deep underwater in search of food.

"Wing-propelled diving is quite rare among birds; most swimming birds use their feet. We think both penguins and plotodopterids had flying ancestors that would plunge from the air into the water in search of food. Over time these ancestor species got better at swimming and worse at flying," said Dr Gerald Mayr of the Senckenberg Research Institute.

The Discovery of Missing Link

A few months back, a team of scientists had discovered a penguin species named Kupoupou Stilwell, and they revealed that these creatures acted as a missing link between modern penguins and the penguins that lived alongside dinosaurs.

Researchers who took part in this study revealed that these penguins lived around 30 to 62.5 million years ago. Just like modern penguins, these ancient penguins also loved to spend more time underwater.

"Next to its colossal human-sized cousins, including the recently described monster penguin Crossvallia waiparensis, Kupoupou was comparatively small -- no bigger than modern King Penguins, which stand just under 1.1 meters tall," said Jacob Blokland, lead author of the study.