According to the scientists, giant flightless birds, which eclipsed modern ostriches and weighed almost half a ton, roamed Europe when the first archaic humans from Africa arrived on the Crimean Peninsula on the north coast of the Black Sea. It is the first time that such a massive bird has been found in the northern hemisphere.
The analysis of the 40 cm long bone and other found remains date to an age of between 1.5 and 1.8 m, suggesting that the birds belonged to the native wild animals, as Homo erectus The ancient ancestor of modern man reached Europe 1.2 million years ago.
The giant birds may have been a valuable source of meat, bones, feathers, and egg shells to early human settlers, scientists say.
Nikita Zelenkov, paleontologist at the Russian Academy of Sciences, said when he received his thigh bone to study, he thought he came from a long extinct elephant bird from Madagascar. "No birds of this size have ever been reported from Europe," he said. However, close inspection revealed that the bird probably belonged to an ancient species called Pachystruthio dmanisensis a stocky, flightless creature that stood about 3.5 meters high. Based on measurements of the femur, the scientists estimate that the bird weighing about 450 kg is twice as heavy as the largest extinct moose in New Zealand, three times as heavy as the largest living bird, the common ostrich, and almost as heavy as an adult Icebear. The fossils are described in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.
"We do not know when exactly it died out, but most likely it did not survive later than 1.2 million years ago," Zelenkov said. "They would have been seen by various Homo erectus humans."
Despite the mass of the bird, the long, slender thigh bone shows that he was fast on his feet. Other remains recovered from the cave provide an explanation for why this may have helped: the giant bird lived alongside some of the most impressive predators of the Ice Age, from saber-toothed cats to other oversized carnivores, including giant cheetahs and giant hyenas. All could become mammoth booty.
Evolution has adorned the Tree of Life with a bizarre collection of bulky birds. The seemingly herbivorous Gastornithidae a family of prehistoric flightless birds with powerful legs and giant beaks, have been haunting Europe, Asia and North America 66 to 35 million years ago. When they were mature, some species reached a height of three meters.
A similarly sized, feathered animal caused 15 minutes of terror to the rainforests of the Australian Northern Territory. Technically known as Bullockornis planei but referred to by a researcher with a view to the public as a "Demon Duck of Downfall", the bird carried a scythe-like beak on a head the size of a horse. It is believed that the beasts, also known as Thunderbirds, have survived until at least 50,000 years ago.
Scientists have argued for decades about the identity of the largest bird in the world, but last year researchers at the Zoological Society of London attempted to solve the problem. They set out with a tape measure and two calipers to measure hundreds of bird bones in museums around the world, and came upon a creature from Madagascar that was three meters tall and weighing up to 800 kg. His name, Vorombe titan, means "big bird" in a mixture of Malagasy and Greek.
The Taurida Cave, where the newest bones were found, was discovered last year when a highway was built, which will allow connecting Simferopol, a city in the heart of the Crimean peninsula, with the city of Kerch in the east , How common the big birds were all over Europe is unknown and a question that future expeditions will now try to answer. "Although there is no evidence yet, this bird could have spread across more western areas," Zelenkov said.
Excavations at the site have also revealed the remains of a bison and a mammoth, and field studies at the site are expected to continue for a while. "Maybe the website will teach us much more about the distant past of Europe," Zelenkov said.