11.5 ft tall giant bird lived in Europe 2 mn yrs ago

June 29 (Agencies) | Publish Date: 6/29/2019 12:10:09 PM IST

 A bird three times bigger than an Ostrich and the same weight as a fully grown polar bear once lived in Europe, according to a new study.

A chance discovery in a cave in Crimea suggests that early Europeans around 1.5 million years ago lived alongside some of the largest birds ever to live on Earth. Experts previously believed that such gigantic birds only ever existed on the islands of Madagascar and New Zealand as well as in Australia.

The newly-discovered specimen, found in Taurida Cave on the northern coast of the Black Sea, suggests a bird as big as the Madagascan elephant bird or New Zealand moa once lived in Europe. Researchers from the Russian Academy of Sciences say it weighed about 70 stone (450kg) and believe it may have been a source of meat, bones, feathers and eggshell for early humans.

Lead author Dr Nikita Zelenkov said: ‘When I first felt the weight of the bird whose thigh bone I was holding in my hand, I thought it must be a Malagasy elephant bird fossil because no birds of this size have ever been reported from Europe. ‘However, the structure of the bone unexpectedly told a different story.

‘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 kilos.

‘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.’

It is the first time a bird of such size has been reported anywhere in the northern hemisphere.

Although the species was previously known, no one ever tried to calculate the size of the animal.

The flightless bird, attributed to the species Pachystruthio dmanisensis, was probably at least 11.5 feet (3.5m), and would have towered above early humans.

It may have been flightless, but the researchers said it was also fast.

While elephant birds were hampered by their great size when it came to speed, Dr Zelenkov said the femur of the bird found in Crimea was relatively long and slim, suggesting it was a better runner.

The femur is comparable to modern ostriches as well as smaller species of moa and terror birds.

But speed may have been essential to the bird’s survival. Alongside its bones, palaeontologists found fossils of highly-specialised, massive carnivores from the Ice Age. They included giant cheetah, giant hyenas and sabre-toothed cats, which were able to prey on mammoths.

Other fossils discovered alongside the specimen, such as bison, help date it to 1.5 to 2 million years ago.

A similar range of fossils was discovered at an archaeological site in the town of Dmanisi in Georgia, the oldest hominin site outside Africa. 



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