A single toe bone found on
Ellesmere Island in the 1970s is described for
the first time
Date: February 12, 2016
University of Colorado
It's official: There really was a giant, flightless bird with a head the size of a horse's wandering about in the winter twilight of the high
some 53 million years ago.
The confirmation comes from a new study by researchers from the
Academy of Sciences in Beijing and the University
of Colorado Boulder that describes the
first and only fossil evidence from the Arctic
of a massive bird known as Gastornis. The evidence is a single fossil toe
bone of the 6-foot tall, several-hundred-pound bird from Ellesmere Island above
the Arctic Circle. The bone is nearly a dead
ringer to fossil toe bones from the huge bird discovered in and which date to roughly the same
The Gastornis (formerly Diatryma) fossil from Ellesmere Island has been discussed by paleontologists since it was collected in the 1970s and appears on a few lists of the prehistoric fauna there, said Professor Thomas Stidham of the
Academy of Sciences in . But this is the
first time the bone has been closely examined and described, he
said. Gastornis fossils also have been found in Europe and Beijing Asia.
"We knew there were a few bird fossils from up there, but we also knew they were extremely rare," said Eberle, an associate professor in geological sciences who conducts research on fossil mammals, reptiles and fishes. In addition to the Gastornisbone from Ellesmere, another scientist reported seeing a fossil footprint there, probably from a large flightless bird, although its specific location remains unknown, Eberle said.
A paper by Stidham and Eberle appears in the most recent issue of Scientific Reports, an open access, weekly journal from the publishers of Nature.