Scientists Discovered A Rare Fossil From A Giant 500 Pound Bird That Lived In The Forests Of Australia 45,000 Years Ago

Martin Valigursky - - illustrative purposes only

About 45,000 years ago, a now-extinct species of giant, flightless bird called Genyornis newtoni tramped through the forests of Australia.

They are known as thunder birds or mihirungs, an Aboriginal term for “giant bird.” These creatures stood over six feet tall and weighed up to 500 pounds.

For more than 100 years, scientists have been trying to locate skull fossils of the birds without success.

In the past, the only skull that was ever found was badly damaged and couldn’t give researchers much information.

Now, a well-preserved fossil of the bird’s skull has been discovered for the first time, allowing researchers to better understand what the bird’s head looked like, as well as its behavior and ancestry.

G. newtoni belonged to the family Dromornithidae, a group of large, flightless birds that appeared roughly 55 million years ago in the fossil record. Their fossils have been unearthed throughout Australia since the 19th century.

Between 2013 and 2019, a team of paleontologists conducted a series of excavations at the Lake Callabonna Fossil Reserve in southern Australia, where they found six fossils and the nearly complete skull of G. newtoni, which has shed new light on the species.

The skull of G. newtoni is much like that of other dromornithids. However, its long upper jaw is out of the ordinary.

It has a wide, rounded top and a bump in front of the eyes, which may have been used as a way to attract mates. The bird’s diet likely consisted mainly of fruits and leaves.

Martin Valigursky – – illustrative purposes only

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