Believe It Or Not: Ancient Flightless Birds Weighed As Much As Polar Bears

An artist's interpretation of what life could have been like if ancient humans and ancient ostriches crossed paths. (Andrey Atuchin)

Fossil of Ancient Bird Three Times Bigger Than an Ostrich Found in Europe

by Emily Toomey

Giant birds of the past have names that speak for themselves. The elephant bird, a native of Madagascar and the largest known giant bird, stood at over nine feet tall and weighed in at a whopping 1,000 pounds or more, until it went extinct about 1,000 years ago. Australia’s mihirung, nicknamed “thunder bird,” which disappeared nearly 50,000 years ago, is thought to have been nearly seven feet tall and weighed between 500 and 1,000 pounds. But until now, no one had ever found evidence of these towering avians in Europe.

Today, researchers describe the first fossil of a giant bird found in Crimea in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology. Dated at around 1.8 million years old, the specimen makes experts question previous assumptions that giant birds were not part of the region’s fauna when early human ancestors first arrived in Europe.

A team of paleontologists dug up the fossil—an unusually large femur—in Taurida Cave, located on the Crimean Peninsula in the northern Black Sea.

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