Quirks & Quarks

Giant, flightless bird in the Arctic 50 million years ago

Fossil on Ellesmere island reveals a flightless bird that went the way of the Dodo.

Extinct bird was two meters tall and several hundred kilos

Artist's impression ( Marlin Peterson)
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The Arctic was a much different place, 50 million years ago, during the Eocene. Lush, warm rainforests were home to alligators, giant tortoises, rhino-like mammals and, according to a new study, a two-metre-tall, flightless bird that weighed several hundred kilos.

A single toe bone, found on Ellesmere Island in the 1970's, was recently studied by Canadian scientist Dr. Jaelyn Eberle, the Curator of Fossil Vertebrates at the University of Colorado Museum of Natural History in Boulder. The toe bone matched perfectly with fossil remains of the large prehistoric herbivore Gastornis, found in Wyoming, and n parts of Europe.

Researachers hope that understanding the Arctic environment, in which Gastornis lived, will provide clues to life in the warmer Arctic of the future. 

Related Links

Paper in Nature Scientific Reports
- University of Colorado release
- CBC News story
- Discovery News story