A giant bird that lacked the ability to fly, has been confirmed to have roamed the Arctic around 53 million years ago, according to researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing and the University of Colorado Boulder.
The six-foot-tall avian is known as Gastornis and was identified by a single fossilized toe bone found on Ellesmere Island above the Arctic Circle. The fossil was discovered in the 1970s and has been a topic of conversation among paleontologists for some time, but it was only recently studied in detail.
Jaelyn Eberle, an associate professor at the University of Colorado Boulder and a co-author of the study, noted, “We knew there were a few bird fossils from up there, but we also knew they were extremely rare.”
Living during the Eocene Epoch, Gastornis would have inhabited an environment similar to the present-day swamps of Florida.
A summary of the findings notes, “Originally thought to be a fearsome carnivore, recent research indicates Gastornis probably was a vegan, using its huge beak to tear at foliage, nuts, seeds and hard fruit.”