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BIG BIRD STUFF



Here's assorted bits and pieces on big birds I've said I'd get round to in
previous posts, but, until now, haven't..

HALLUX IN RATITES

Of the big ratites (i.e. not kiwis which have a hallux), only moas have the
hallux, even the biggest ones (_Dinornis_). These long limbed birds would have
been moderately cursorial, they could at least run as fast as cassowaries, but
the fact that they lived in forests near devoid of large predators (the eagle
_Harpagornis moorei_ was a moa-killer) suggests that they probably didn't need
to run around too much. Aepyornithids ('elephant birds') lack a hallux.

BIG BIRD MASS ESTIMATES

_Aepyornis_, the heaviest of known avians ever, reached 450, possibly 500, kg.
Both it and certain of the big moas were more graviportal than other ratites -
 they didn't need to run, though perhaps they still could. The biggest of
_Dinornis_ moas, the tallest birds at around 3 metres, could weigh, it is said,
around 240 kg. I couldn't find any mass estimates of the big, stocky moas which,
though shorter than _Dinornis_, were far more heavily built. Ostriches average
115 kg, with maxima of 150. I understand that the odd dromornithids from Down
Under (e.g. _Dromornis_) were particularly massive too. I didn't have lit on
them to hand however... over to you, Aussies.

I said _Titanis_ would have been around 110 kg. This estimate could work for
large, but not huge, phorusracoids, like some species of _Phorusrhacos_, but
_Titanis_, at about 3 m tall, would probably be something more like 200-250 kg.
Some large phorusrhacoids were markedly gracile. 

SPELLING OF TITANIS

I'm guessing that _Titanis_ is the correct spelling - it's used by Marshall in
the Sci. Amer. article, and presumably by Brodkorb in the _T_ description. The
first source I checked, however, was Feduccia's 'Age of Birds' - he spelt it
_Titanus_, hence my uncertainty. Seems he was wrong.. but then that's no
surprise is it (heh heh)....

"He got the.. boot"

DARREN NAISH