Huge 600kg flying bird called the ‘Demon Duck of Doom’ once roamed Australia – while an ancient skull reveals its 1.5m HEAD that contained cerebellum brain
- Dromornis stirtoni part of giant bird family called ‘demon ducks of doom’
- The birds lived in northern Australia for millions of years and were flyless
- They had malformed cerebellum brains in spite of their 600 kg bodies, 3 meters high
Researchers have discovered a huge flightless bird with a squashed and disfigured brain that once roamed northern Australia.
The Dromornis stirtoni lived about seven million years ago and gradually evolved from the size of a modern brush turkey to 600 kg and three meters in height.
The huge bird – bigger than the average polar bear – could ‘kick the s *** out of predators’ and had a ‘huge powerful beak,’ said Professor Trevor Worthy of Flinder University in Adelaide.
“It was easily the largest in his area,” he said.
The Dromornis stirtoni lived about seven million years ago and evolved from the size of a modern-day brush turkey to an intimidating 600kg and three meters high – and would have commanded the respect of any predator
Dromornis stirtoni lived in northern Australia seven million years ago and is said to have been very similar to this skeleton of its relative Dromornis planei.
The bird is the newest species discovered in the Dromornithidae family – known by the indigenous people as mihirungs – and has been called ‘demonic ducks of doom or thunderbirds’ by researchers.
The family crossed over briefly with early humans – who were likely responsible for its extinction about 50,000 years ago.
This bird’s head was huge – measuring over half a meter in length – but an oddly shaped skull meant there wasn’t much room for brain material, so it was relatively small for such a large body.
Despite its massive size and awesome defenses, the bird only ate plants and leaves.
“Over time, the skull was shortened and pushed and compressed against a brick wall, in fact it was deformed and squashed into the shape of a pancake,” said Professor Worthy.
A relative of Dromornis stirtoni, Genyornis newtoni who is also part of the same family, referred to by Flinders University researchers as ‘the demon ducks of doom’
Flinders University researchers Warren Handley and Trevor Worthy with skull fragments of the ‘demon ducks of doom’
‘This bird had the largest skull, but behind the huge beak was a weird skull. In order to accommodate the muscles to handle this huge beak, the skull had grown bigger and wider than it was, and so the brain inside was compressed and squashed to fit. ‘
“ Along with their large, forward-facing eyes and very large bills, the shape of their brains and nerves suggested that these birds likely had well-developed stereoscopic vision or depth perception and fed on a diet of soft leaves and fruits, ” said lead author , Flinders University researcher Dr. Warren Handley.
“The shape of their brains and nerves has told us a lot about their sensory abilities, and something about their possible lifestyles that have allowed these remarkable birds to live extremely long in the forests around river channels and lakes across Australia.”