That's a damn big drumstick!
A very large bird weighing about half a ton and nearly 12 feet tall – the first of its size ever discovered in the northern hemisphere – may have lived alongside early humans.
Researchers from the Russian Academy of Sciences have recently discovered a fossil in the Taurida Cave in Crimea, which belongs to the massive creature known as Pachystruthio dmanisensis. Its source, according to the study published Wednesday in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology ,
"When I first felt the weight of the bird whose thighbone I held in my hand, I thought it must be a fossil of a Malagasy elephant bird. Never before have birds of this size been reported from Europe," said the study author Nikita Zelenkov from the Russian Academy of Sciences in a statement by CNN. "The structure of the bone, however, has unexpectedly told a different story."
The giant birds may have provided meat, bones, feathers, and egg shells to early human populations, the study suggests.
They probably fed on fruits. and crossed Turkey and the South Caucasus to reach the Black Sea region, the researchers said.
According to the study, the flightless birds are comparable – albeit much larger – than modern ostriches. They are about the same size as the long-extinct elephant birds, but they are better runners – supported by their long and slender femurs, according to the study.
"We still do not have enough data to tell if it was the most accurate of ostriches or other birds, but we estimate that it weighed about 450 kg [992 pounds]," Zelenkov said. "This considerable weight is almost double that of the largest moa, three times that of the largest living bird, the ostrich, and nearly as high as that of a full-grown polar bear." Cave.
"The Taurida Cave Network was discovered only last summer when a new highway was built," Zelenkov said. "Mammoth remains were uncovered last year, and it could do much more to make the site teach us something about Europe's distant past."