Fossil Of 11-Foot Bird Unearthed In Europe

The title for the largest feathered bird living today goes to the ostrich, because its adult males grow up to about 9 feet in height and weigh about 120-150 kilograms.

Put that title in ancient context, however, and the ostrich will basically look like a canary beside the Pachystruthio dmanisensis, a prehistoric giant bird that’s about 11-foot tall and weighed about 450 kilograms.

Of course, scientists are sure that bigger birds have existed. However, what’s surprising with the flightless Pachystruthio isn’t just its mere size, but where its fossilized remains were found.

An unexpected find

Back in 2018, roadwork started on the Crimean Peninsula on the northern coast of the Black Sea. After busting a cave open, what greeted the workers weren’t just darkness and some bats, but what’s essentially a feast for paleontologists and scientists.

The cave was filled with bones, including those from mammoths, horses, hyenas, sabre-toothed cats, and a small wolf. Among them was a rather odd piece: a femur that was out of place.

Initially, Russian Academy of Sciences palaeontologist Nikita Zelenkov assumed that the thigh bone came from a Malagasy elephant bird. However, a closer analysis of the femur revealed a different story.

Does size matter?

According to science, the characteristics like size, food preference and many others of a certain species is a direct result of the ecological forces of the environment it lives in. That’s why insects found in caves normally don’t have eyes, and that’s why savanna-living cheetahs have strong hind legs to run really fast. And so, when the remains of this large bird were found in mainland Europe, scientists were surprised.

"We don't have enough data yet to say whether it was most closely related to ostriches or to other birds, but we estimate it weighed about 450 kilograms,"  said Zelenkov. "This formidable weight is nearly double the largest moa, three times the largest living bird, the common ostrich, and nearly as much as an adult polar bear."

Whether us humans had a hand in the giant bird’s extinction is still very much hard to tell.

bird-242715_960_720 Ostriches are currently the largest living bird today. Photo by Pixabay (CC0)

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