New Phorusrhacid Skull

Phorusrhacids were large flightless birds native to South America. The larger species were top predators and the entire group is frequently referred to as “Terror Birds”. An article in Nature announces the discovery of one of the largest Phorusrhacid skull ever found.
[Added Later: Darren Naish has two excellent posts on the subject:
Terror Birds and More on phorusrhacids: the biggest, the fastest, the mostest out-of-placest]

The skull is 716 mm long. Also found was a tarsometatarsus. Based on analysis of both, researchers were able to come up with some interesting insights into large Phorusrhacids. First, large Phorusrhacids were not just scaled up versions of smaller species. Second, based on measurements of the tarsometatarsus researchers concluded that the bird was much quicker, locomotion wise, than previously thought.
Chiappe and Bertelli, 2006, Skull morphology of giant terror birds, Nature 443:929
What could be cooler?
Added Later: Since several people have asked, here is an artist reconstruction of what the new find would look like:
Also, according to National Geographic:

The largest terror birds could likely swallow dog-size prey in a single gulp, experts say.

8 Responses

  1. “Second, based on measurements of the tarsometatarsus researchers concluded that the bird was much quicker, locomotion wise, than previously thought.”
    So, how quick?

  2. They don’t say in the Nature article, but National Geographic has an story on it. The National Geographic says:

    Chiappe estimates that the new species ran as fast as modern day emus or rheas but were not as speedy as ostriches, the world’s largest and fastest living birds.

  3. Damn, that’s a big bird. Was it yellow?

  4. Wiley Coyote would have all kinds of trouble with that bird…

  5. Given that it’s skull is approximately the size of a horse skull, I think it could eat Willey Coyote! National Geo had an artist reconstruction, which has yellow an brown feathers…

  6. Well, my little conure bit my tongue last night (she had been viewing it with suspicion ever since I started sticking it out at her) and now instead of feeling peeved (and stupid) I feel lucky (and stupid). There have been bigger and more dangerous beaks in this world; ones that, apparently, could have done far more than just hurt a small section of my tongue.

  7. “The skull is 716 mm long.” Something in the vicinity of 28 inches, I think. Presumably that includes the beak as well, not just the skull proper?

  8. Yes, it includes the beak. Specifically the measurment was from the tip of the rostrum to sagittal nuchal crest. The beak exceeded half the length of the skull.

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