Regarding feathered animals, Pachystruthio dmanisensis was a monster. With an estimated mass of about 450 kilograms (almost half a ton), a 150-kilogram adult ostrich – the largest living bird in the world – would look like a canary.
Larger birds have existed, but it is not so much its size that distinguishes this flightless bird, but the unexpected location where its remains were found on the north coast of the Black Sea.
When the road works open a cave In the summer of 2018, the Crimean peninsula turned out to be a goldmine for paleontologists.
Among the pickings, which included mammoth bones, saber-toothed cats, hyenas, horses, and even a small wolf, was a weird thigh that simply did not belong.
The paleontologist of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Nikita Zelenkov, initially suspected that the fossilized leg bone with its impressive weight had to come from a Malagasy elephant bird "Another story," says Zelenkov.
Animals of unusual size ̵
With no clear indication that large birds are developing on mainland Europe, paleontologists have simply assumed that Foster's rule was strong and kept all European birds at a boring average size.
This new discovery challenges this assumption and is the first clear indication that a giant flightless bird once settled on ancient European soil.
The thighbone itself is about the size of an elephant bird, but looks a bit leaner, indicating that he was a runner.
Other estimates are based on the bone's approximate height of about 3.5 meters, which could mean we imagine P. dmanisensis as a tall, slender elephant bird or rather stocky ostrich.
"We do not yet have enough data to say if they were closest to ostriches or other birds, but we estimate that they weighed about 450 kilograms," Zelenkov says.
"This mighty weight is nearly twice the size of the largest moa, three times the size of the largest living bird, the common ostrich, and almost as much as an adult polar bear."
The crown for the largest member of the class Aves goes to an extinct elephant bird species called titan that once roamed the African island of Madagascar before becoming extinct about a thousand years ago.
At a full 860 kilograms, it would have twice the mass of P. dmanisensis .
Due to the animal mix found in the cave, researchers estimated that they would have been hibernated somewhere 1.5 to 2 million years ago.
Homo erectus found bones east of the Black Sea was dated at about the same time, making it more than likely that relatives of our ancestors not only shared the area of the bird, but might even have hunted it ,
With humans on the tail, not to mention predators like saber-toothed cats, wolves and hyenas, it is not surprising that P. dmanisensis evolved into a sprinter.
When we find a giant bird in mainland Europe, not only can we better understand the type of fauna encountered by people migrating through the landscape, but also the environment itself.
Foster's rule is size of some large, flightless birds, but to explain why emus and ostriches are so big, researchers instead turn to the Jarman Bell principle. And when it comes to getting the most out of a pile of nutrient-poor, fibrous meals, larger bodies offer greater benefits.
Applied to P. dmanisensis we imagine a dry landscape on the edge of the open steppe where old people and long-toothed predators look for a quick and easy meal in an oversized, light-footed chicken.
Whether humans did this or not a hand in their extermination, it is too difficult to say at this time. Hopefully, these are not the last bones we'll ever find of this massive bird.
This study was published in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology .