Giant ostriches

450 kg birds lived in Pleistocene Europe

Scientists think humans in Pleistocene Europe lived with some of the heaviest birds ever to have existed. A giant femur found in the Crimean Peninsula is believed to have belonged to a 450 kg flightless bird somewhat similar to an ostrich.

Before the discovery, all of the world’s known heaviest birds were in the Southern Hemisphere. The weightiest of all these heavy avians is the 700 kg elephant bird of Madagascar.

Researchers have tentatively given the name Pachystruthio dmanisensis to the newly discovered bird.

A comparison with the femurs of other large flightless birds has helped scientists to work out how Pachystruthio moved. It would have been slower than an ostrich because of its weight, but faster than the less gracile elephant bird.

Pachystruthio certainly needed to run. Pleistocene Europe was home to carnivorous giant cheetahs, giant hyenas and saber-toothed cats.

For more information see “A giant early Pleistocene bird from Eastern Europe: Unexpected component of terrestrial faunas at the time of early Homo arrival.” Authors: Zelenkov, Lavrov, Startsev, Vislobokova and Lopatin.