Scientists in Australia have claimed to have found the fossilised skeleton of what might have been the biggest bird that ever lived. The existence of the ostrich-like Dromornis stritone has been known for years, but the specimen found at Alcoota near Alice Springs, Australia, would be as heavy as a bullock and as tall as an elephant.
Despite its massive size, the flightless bird was fleet of foot with an estimated top speed of 20-25 km per hour. Peter Murray, a palaeontologist at the Museum of Central Australia, Alice Springs, says that it could outrun any predator. Murray feels that the Alcoota Dromornia was even bigger than Madagascar's giant elephant bird, previously thought to be the biggest bird ever. He described the Dromornis and the recently discovered fossilised bones of a giant rhinoceros-like marsupial as the latest discoveries to have come out of the Alcoota site, 180 km north-east of Alice, which has been yielding ancient fossils for about 13 years. Both creatures lived in the Miocene age about eight million years ago.
The ostrich-like bird stood about three metres tall with human-sized legs "and a knee-joint with a diameter of a small dinner plate", adds Murray. It had hooved feet, rather like horse's hooves but with three long, slender toes. "He would not have been ferocious, but if attacked he would have been able to kick his opponents to death."