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

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