Facts about Gastornis, an extinct prehistoric animal

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Dinosaur Jungle   >   Other Prehistoric Animals   >   Gastornis


Click here for more Gastornis Pictures

Scientific Classification
  Kingdom Animalia
  Phylum Chordata
  Class Aves
  Subclass Neornithes
  Infraclass Neognathae
  Superorder Galloanserae
  Order Gastornithiformes
  Family Gastornithidae
  Genus Gastornis
Gastornis (often known as "Diatryma") is a genus of large flightless birds that lived from the late Paleocene epoch to the middle Eocene epoch, between about 56 million and 45 million years ago. Fossils os these birds have been found in a number of countries in Europe, (including Belgium, England, France, and Germany) as well as in the United States.

Gastornis was upto about 6½ feet (2 meters) tall, and had a huge beak with a hooked top, and powerful legs. It is not certain what type of feathers it had, but it is thought that it may have had hair-like feathers similar to modern ratites.

There has been much debate about Gastornis' diet. Its beak seems to suggest it was a predator - if this was the case it probably hunted in packs or was an ambush hunter, since it may not have been particularly agile, particularly since the areas in which it lived were covered with dense forests. Alternatively, it is also possible that Gastornis may have been a scavenger, omnivore, or even a herbivore (plant-eater).

The first fossils of the genus were found near Paris, France by Gaston Planté in 1855 (Planté later became famous for his achievements in physics, including inventing the lead-acid battery), who named the bird "Gastornis" (Gaston's bird). In the 1870s, Edward D. Cope found another set of fossils in the United States, and named the animal "Diatryma". When it was subsequently realized that these were both specimens of the same animal, the first name chosen takes priority, and hence the correct name of the animal is in fact Gastornis.

Gastornis Timeline:

Gastornis was a large flightless bird that lived between 56 and 45 million years ago

Gastornis was a large flightless bird that lived between 56 and 45 million years ago

Related Information & Resources

See Also

Gastornis Books

Here are some books from Amazon.com:

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Gastornis (Prehistoric Beasts)
By Marc Zabludoff

Brand: Benchmark Books
Library Binding (32 pages)

Gastornis (Prehistoric Beasts)
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Product Description:
Presents an introduction to the prehistoric bird known as the gastornis, describing its physical characteristics, when and where it lived, how it lived, and what other animals lived alongside it.
Ancient Animals: Terror Bird
By Sarah L. Thomson

Brand: Charlesbridge Publishing
Released: 2013-08-01
Hardcover (32 pages)

Ancient Animals: Terror Bird
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Product Description:
There are a lot of large birds that inhabit our world today—the albatross, the condor, the emperor penguin. But none of these compare to the terror bird: a bird of prey that roamed ancient South America over fifteen million years ago. The terror bird could stand as tall as a basket ball hoop, with strong beaks designed to hunt. For sixty million years, the terror bird thrived. Almost every other animal could be considered its prey.

How did this prehistoric creature live and hunt? How did it eventually become extinct? Sarah Thompson presents this scientific information with the emerging reader in mind—the text is simple, concise, and clear, yet full of useful and thought-provoking facts and ideas. Andrew Plant’s illustrations, labeled throughout, provide readers with an accurate visual of the creatures presented. Lovers of nature and paleontology will find much to enjoy in this introduction to the biggest meat-eating bird that ever lived.

Back matter includes facts about other flightless birds—both alive and extinct—as well as additional resources for further discovery.
Gastornis. Der verkannte Terrorvogel (German Edition)
By Ernst Probst

GRIN Publishing
Paperback (96 pages)

Gastornis. Der verkannte Terrorvogel (German Edition)
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Product Description:
Fachbuch aus dem Jahr 2013 im Fachbereich Biologie - Zoologie, , Sprache: Deutsch, Abstract: Gegen Ende der Kreidezeit vor rund 65 Millionen Jahren starben weltweit die Dinosaurier aus. Diese teilweise bis zu 40 Meter langen Echsen hatten bis dahin die Erde beherrscht. Wenige Millionen Jahre nach dem Verschwinden der Dinosaurier tauchten im späten Paläozän vor etwa 61,7 Millionen Jahren in Europa und ab dem frühen Eozän vor über 50 Millionen Jahren auch in Nordamerika riesige flugunfähige Vögel namens Gastornis auf. Schon zu ihren Lebzeiten begann der Siegeszug der ehedem unscheinbaren kleinen Säugetiere. Die bis zu mehr als 2 Meter großen und schätzungsweise 100 Kilogramm schweren Laufvögel der Gattung Gastornis behaupteten sich über 20 Millionen Jahre lang, ehe sie im mittleren Eozän vor ca. 40,4 Millionen Jahren von der Bühne des Lebens abtraten. Fossile Funde von ihnen barg man in den USA (New Mexico, New Jersey, Wyoming) und in Europa (Frankreich, Belgien, England, Deutschland). Mit diesen umstrittenen Laufvögeln, die man inzwischen in einem ganz anderen Licht als früher sieht, befasst sich das Taschenbuch „Gastornis - Der verkannte Terrorvogel" des Wiesbadener Wissenschaftsautors Ernst Probst. Unter seinen mehr als 300 Büchern, Taschenbüchern, Broschüren und E-Books befinden sich zahlreiche Werke über urzeitliche Tiere.
Eocene Station
By Dave Duncan

Five Rivers Publishing
Released: 2016-08-01
Kindle Edition (211 pages)

Eocene Station
Product Description:
A new Dave Duncan novel is always a reason to celebrate, and his trademark blend of high adventure, hard science, and wry humour makes Eocene Station a must read.
K. N. ‘Cannon’ Ball and his superstar wife, Tempest, are running for their lives. Cannon has exposed a fraud so huge even heads of government are implicated and determined to keep Cannon from ever testifying. Nowhere is safe, so they step out of time to a research station fifty million years in the past. The dinosaurs died out eons ago and there aren't any people around, so they ought to be safe then, right? Wrong, very wrong!
Vogelriesen in der Urzeit: Rekorde gefiederter Giganten (German Edition)
By Ernst Probst

GRIN Verlag
Released: 2014-09-29
Kindle Edition (300 pages)

Vogelriesen in der Urzeit: Rekorde gefiederter Giganten (German Edition)
Product Description:
Fachbuch aus dem Jahr 2014 im Fachbereich Geowissenschaften / Geographie - Paläontologie, , Sprache: Deutsch, Abstract: Gefiederte Giganten stehen im Mittelpunkt des Taschenbuches „Vogelriesen in der Urzeit“. Weibliche Tiere der Gattung Dinornis („Schreckensvogel“) auf Neuseeland gelten mit einer Höhe bis zu 3,60 Metern als größte Vögel aller Zeiten. Der Donnervogel Dromornis in Australien erreichte ein Lebendgewicht von maximal 570 Kilogramm und war deswegen der schwerste Vogel der Erdgeschichte. Mit einer Flügelspannweite bis zu 8 Metern gebührt dem Greifvogel Argentavis aus Argentinien die Ehre, der größte fliegende Vogel gewesen zu sein. Nicht ganz so imposant wirkte der größte Meeresvogel Pelagornis in Nordamerika mit einer Flügelspannweite von 6,40 Metern. Die größten Eier legte der weibliche Elefantenvogel Aepyornis auf Madagaskar: Sie waren bis zu 35 Zentimeter lang und ihr Inhalt entsprach demjenigen von 200 heutigen Hühnereiern. Hesperornis, der „Vogel des Westens“ in Nordamerika, trug noch Zähne. Angst und Schrecken verbreitete der Terrorvogel Phorusrhacos in Südamerika. Der lange Zeit als Räuber verkannte Laufvogel Gastornis existierte auch in Deutschland. Verfasser des Taschenbuches „Vogelriesen in der Urzeit“ ist der Wiesbadener Wissenschaftsautor Ernst Probst, der zahlreiche Werke über urzeitliche Tiere geschrieben hat.

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