Penguins discovered by Bruce scientist named to New Zealand annual coin

Daniel Ksepka, Curator of Science at the Bruce Museum, examines Kairuku fossils. — R.E. Fordyce photo

Daniel Ksepka, Curator of Science at the Bruce Museum, examines Kairuku fossils. — R.E. Fordyce photo

Two extinct giant penguins that once roamed the wilds of New Zealand and were first described by Daniel Ksepka, curator of science at the Bruce Museum, have been selected for the 2014 New Zealand annual coin.

Dr. Ksepka was the lead author of a scientific paper that first identified and described Kaiurku waitaki and Kairuku grebneffi, the penguin species featured on the coin. This research was conducted in collaboration with R. Ewan Fordyce, Professor at the University of Otago and Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand as well as Dr. Tatsuro Ando and Dr. Craig Jones.

Dr. Fordyce discovered the fossils of Kaiurku as part of his extensive fossil collecting for the University of Otago Geology Museum. In 2012, Dr. Ksepka and Dr. Fordyce collected new Kairuku fossils in the Kokoamu Greensand Formation of New Zealand’s South Island.

“It’s not exactly the same as having your face on a coin, but I quite prefer a coin featuring ancient penguins,” Dr. Ksepka said. “It is a thrill to see these species being acknowledged as an important part of the world’s geological history.”

Both Kairuku species appear on a New Zealand silver coin that is officially legal tender with a $5 face value. The design features artist Chris Gaskin’s depiction of a Kairuku penguin next to a height chart, emphasising its tall stature compared with its modern-day counterparts, alongside an image of a Kairuku penguin swimming. The rim of the coin features the Maori name, alongside the English translation: diver who returns with food.

Does Dr. Ksepka keep one of the coins in his pocket?

“Not yet,” he said. “But Ive ordered one.”

For more information, call 203-869-0376 or visit

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