Early Europeans lived alongside giant 3-meter tall birds new research published on Wednesday explains. The bird species was one of the largest to ever roam the earth weighing in at a staggering 450 kg.
Bones of the massive, probably flightless bird were discovered in a cave in Crimea. “We don’t have enough data yet to say whether it was most closely related to ostriches or to other birds, but we estimate it weighed about 450kg,” says the study's lead author Dr. Nikita Zelenkov. This formidable weight is nearly double the largest moa, three times the largest living bird, the common ostrich, and nearly as much as an adult polar bear.”
No flight but fast legs
The bird is attributed to the species Pachystruthio dmanisensis. Living almost 2 million years ago, researchers think the bird would have been very quick on its feet - a key skill in surviving hungry early human hunting.
In the cave alongside the giant bird bones scientist found fossils of carnivores such as giant cheetah, giant hyenas and saber-toothed cats. The birds would have been a big target for humans who could use it for meat, feathers and even its eggs. The bones of the giant brd were discovered alongside its fellow ancient creatures during roadworks for a new highway.
Almost a case of mistaken identity
When the bones were sent to the academy of science for analysis they were initially mistaken for bones from the Malagasy elephant bird. “When I first felt the weight of the bird whose thigh bone I was holding in my hand, I thought it must be a Malagasy elephant bird fossil because no birds of this size have ever been reported from Europe. However, the structure of the bone unexpectedly told a different story,” says Zelenkov .
The animals femur bone closely resembled the elephant birds bones but were slightly more slender indicating to the researchers this bird was very good at running.
Homo Sapiens have been dated to be living in the same area at roughly the same time. Understanding which animas co-existed with humans gives anthropologists new insight into the lives of our ancestors.
The animals may have grown so big in size in response to changes in its environment which was growing increasingly arid as the Pleistocene epoch approached.
A larger body mass reduces metabolic demands which means animals can make use of less nutritious food growing in open steppes. “The Taurida cave network was only discovered last summer when a new motorway was being built. Last year, mammoth remains were unearthed and there may be much more to that the site will teach us about Europe’s distant past,” says Zelenkov.