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Re: Giant Cretaceous flightless bird

Dinogeorge wrote:
>The current issue of _Science_ (January 9, 1998) carries a news report on page
>183 of a new genus and species of ostrichlike bird from the Upper Cretaceous
>(about 72 Ma) of southern France. Named _Gargantuavis philoinos_ by Eric
>Buffetaut and Jean Le Loeuff, the bird is to be described in the January issue
>of _Journal of the Geological Society_. The report features a picture of the
>pelvis and sacrum, a fused assemblage of 10 vertebrae about 20 cm across by 18
>cm long in ventral view. The authors assert that the "dinosaur" eggs
>discovered in this region of France might actually have been laid by such
>large, flightless birds, whose weight they estimate at about 141 kg. It's "the
>oldest flightless bird of this size yet discovered," the authors assert.
It's worth noting that southern France and Iberia at that point were an
island, probably somewhat larger than Madagascar. Buffetaut thinks
Gargantuavis occupied a niche similar to the "ostrich dinosaurs" which
lived on the major continents at the time, but were not present in France.
All they have studied at the moment is the pelvis and sacrum, but when I
talked to him (for a report in New Scientist) he said they may have more
bones. He also says the pelvis shows no signs of being closely related to
later flightless birds of comparable size; presumably Gargantuavis went out
with the dinosaurs at the end of the Cretaceous, if it survived that long.

Jeff Hecht     Boston Correspondent    New Scientist magazine
525 Auburn St.,          Auburndale, MA 02166             USA
tel 617-965-3834 fax 617-332-4760 e-mail jhecht@world.std.com
URL: http://www.sff.net/people/Jeff.Hecht/
see New Scientist on the Web: http://www.newscientist.com/