Posted: Jun 17, 2018 8:57 am
by lyingcheat
Fossils from Alcoota site shed more light on origins of gigantic, goose-like bird
The central Australian outback was once home to a large flightless bird thought to be the largest bird ever to walk the planet.
The goose-like Dromornis stirtoni is thought to have stood about three metres tall and weighed up to 650 kilograms, making it heavier than the Giant Moa of New Zealand and taller than the Elephant Bird of Madagascar.

More is being discovered about this giant, flightless creature from extensive digs at a the fossil-rich Alcoota site, 200 kilometres north-east of Alice Springs.
Dr Adam Yates, the senior curator of Earth Sciences at the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory in Alice Springs, said the site was about 8 million years old. But Dr Yates said, relatively speaking, that was not considered that old.
...
He said the story of Dromornis stirtoni was interesting in that for decades scientists mistakenly believed it was distant relative of the emu because the leg bones were similar to those of emus. But Dr Yates said thanks to the later discovery of Dromornis skulls at the site, it was revealed that they were actually a flightless family of dromornithids unique to Australia but completely unrelated to emus.
...
Dr Yates said the research took a while, but through a combination of the fossil skulls found at Alcoota and at Bullock Creek — another fossil site 700 kilometres south of Darwin — it was found that Dromornis stirtoni was related to ducks and geese.

He said scientists now believed Dromornis stirtoni was the largest bird that ever lived on the planet.


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A recent sketch of what Dromornis stirtoni may have looked like.

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A full skeleton of the large, prehistoric bird found at the Alcoota fossil beds.


The story also contains another interesting way of conceptualising the relative time scales, well... it's new to me at least.
(Dr Yates) said it was often difficult for people to conceptualise how long ago creatures like Dromornis stirtoni walked the earth.
"One analogy I like to use is talk about a piece of paper representing a single year. So if you just lay down one piece of typing paper that's one year and then you build up a stack of 300 pieces of paper, which is less than an inch thick. Then you've covered all of European history in Australia.

You'd need a stack that was close to head height to cover all of Aboriginal history in Australia but to get the mere eight million years ago you'd need a stack of paper that was at ground level in Alice Springs and stacked up above Mount Gillen (914 metres).

To get back to the dinosaurs you'd have to be up where the commercial aeroplanes are flying."