(Natural News) A bird that weighed around 992 lbs (450 kg) – nearly as heavy as a polar bear – was discovered in a the Taurida Cave in Crimea, Ukraine. This is the first evidence scientists have found suggesting that early Europeans lived alongside one of the most enormous birds to have ever existed.
Previous scientific knowledge believed that the kind of gigantism in birds that produced heavyweight avian species like the elephant bird and the moa bird only ever existed on islands, such as Madagascar and New Zealand. However, this newly discovered fossil specimen turns all of this understanding on its head.
The giant bird, known as Pachystruthio dmanisensis, lived around 1.5 to two million years ago, and scientists believe that it may have been a source of meat, feathers, bones and eggshells for early humans. It stood at around 11 feet tall (3.5 m) and scientists believe it would have moved incredibly fast, as speed would be essential to its survival.
Scientists have known about the existence of P. dmanisensis, but before the discovery of its bones in the Taurida Cave, they were unaware of its actual size.
“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,” said lead study author Nikita Zelenkov of the Russian Academy of Sciences. “However, the structure of the bone unexpectedly told a different story.”
Zelenkov and his team brought to light the true size of P. dmanisensis using several formula calculations, which they based on the measurements of the bird’s femur. Using their formulas, they gave an estimate weight of 992 lbs.
Giant bird thrice the size of modern-day ostrich
This is the first time that a bird of this size was uncovered anywhere in the northern hemisphere. Even though researchers have already known about the existence of P. dmanisensis, its gigantic size wasn’t determined until the discovery made by Zelenkov and his team. P. dmanisensis, in particular, would have towered above human ancestors.
Zelenkov even noted that P. dmanisensis’ weighed so much that its “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.”
Other fossils found in the area with P. dmanisensis, such as bison, helped Zelenkov and his team estimate the age of the massive bird to around 1.5 to two million years ago – around the same time that the oldest hominin (human ancestor) found beyond Africa existed.
This told Zelenkov and his team that P. dmanisensis may have been typical of the animals found during that time, when hominins first migrated out of Africa and into Europe. Zelenkov further suggested that P. dmanisensis’ range homeland may have reached the Black Sea region around Crimea through the Southern Caucasus in modern-day Turkey.
The Taurida cave, which belongs to a greater network of caves, was discovered in the summer of 2018 when construction teams working for the Republic of Crimea – the Russian-backed local government currently occupying Crimea – stumbled upon it while building a highway. The whole network of caves is said to contain “the remnants of bodies of pre-Glacian Age mammals, including mastodons and mammoths.”
For more archeological discoveries of ancient animals, check out Discoveries.news.