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Prehistoric 'terror bird' was a vegetarian

Posted on Sunday, 1 September, 2013 | Comment icon 23 comments

Terror birds at the Horniman Museum, London. Image Credit: CC 2.0 Jim Linwood
Once thought to have been a vicious predator, the 7ft terror bird was actually a harmless plant-eater.
With an appearance not dissimilar to a large ostrich, the species known as Gastornis sported a large sharp beak and would have lived in what is now Europe approximately 55 to 40 million years ago. Palaeontologists examining fossil remains of the creature originally concluded that its beak and large size would have made it a formidable predator in a world dominated by small mammals.

New clues have come to light however which suggest that this might not have actually been the case. Terror bird footprints appear to show no sign of the razor sharp claws that such a predator would be expected to have while on closer inspection their weight and build would have made it impossible for the birds to chase down fleeing prey.

Another significant indicator was the calcium isotopic composition of the fossilized bones which can help determine if a species is carnivorous or herbivorous. In the case of Gastornis the composition seemed to indicate a herbivorous species.

Researchers are now attempting to piece together exactly what these creatures would have eaten and how they were able to thrive for so long.

Source: Discovery News | Comments (23)

Tags: Terror bird, Prehistoric

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #14 Posted by Lava_Lady on 28 September, 2013, 22:00
It looks like the bird in "The Giant Claw".... great movie, if you like them crappy.
Comment icon #15 Posted by Asadora on 29 September, 2013, 1:41
That reminds me of the bird like creatures from Dark Crystal: Awesome movie by the way
Comment icon #16 Posted by Frank Merton on 29 September, 2013, 1:51
Comment icon #17 Posted by Lava_Lady on 29 September, 2013, 1:53
I haven't thought of that movie in decades! Wow, thanks for the reminder, I'll have to look it up again. And those birds look a lot better than the one in Giant Claw, lol
Comment icon #18 Posted by Asadora on 29 September, 2013, 2:05
You're welcome for the reminder:) If I remember correctly the bird creature on the left in the picture is the head honcho and the one on the right is the one that always made that creepy 'mmmmmmmmmmm' sound. haha.
Comment icon #19 Posted by Frank Merton on 29 September, 2013, 2:07
And they are sooo well groomed!
Comment icon #20 Posted by Lava_Lady on 29 September, 2013, 2:27
Haha! It was so long ago I don't remember that but I recall the way they moved gave me the creeps. Something about the puppetry. lol
Comment icon #21 Posted by Lava_Lady on 29 September, 2013, 2:30
I guess "busy" was the fashion back in the Dark Crystal! lol
Comment icon #22 Posted by Frank Merton on 29 September, 2013, 3:21
Pretentious and stuffy.
Comment icon #23 Posted by Simbi Laveau on 29 September, 2013, 8:22
It looks like the dodo bird

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