Researchers from Flinders University and the University of New South Wales have published a study in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology detailing the discovery of the Dromornis murrayi – and 551-pound ancestor of the Dromornis family – ancient birds that were 10 feet tall and weighing almost a ton, according to Discovery.
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Yet scientists think the Dromornis murrayi might be the smallest within the genus Dromornis family line.
“Originally, it was the smallest, at a pretty hefty 250 kilograms [551 pounds],” said the study’s lead author Trevor Worthy. “But by eight million years ago it had evolved into D. stirtoni, which averaged a whopping 450 kilograms [992 pounds], with some individuals reaching 650 kilograms [1,433 pounds] — the largest birds the world has known.”
This newly discovered ancestor of the world’s largest prehistoric birds lived during the late Oligocene to early Miocene period. The entire Dromornis family also belonged to the Dromornithidae family of Mihirungs, hugh birds of the past.
“Mihirungs were giant flightless birds only found in Australia and are known only from fossils,” the researchers explained. “The largest stood two meters [6.6 feet] high at its back and reached well over three meters [9.8 feet] at the head. They survived until the Pleistocene period when Genyornis newtoni, the last species, died out, probably about 50,000 years ago.”
Co-author Suzanne Hand of the University of New South Wales revealed that fossils of the newly found ancestor bird are common in the Riversleigh area of northwest Queensland in Australia, and that people who come to the site could easily spot these bones.
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The scientists also agreed that the Dromorni murrayi was an ancestor of the Dromorni stirtoni which was a hulking creature after analyzing its skull, breast bones, sternum, and leg bones. “We even had some tiny bones of the wing, which showed this gigantic bird had already, by 26 million years ago, essentially lost its wings,” Worthy supplied.