Scientists are divided when it comes to what Gastornis ate to survive.
Gastornis, (pronounced gas- TOR-niss), is a very large ratite that is now
A man named Gaston Plante is credited with the discovery of the first set of fossils in Germany in the year 1855.
Plante named his set of fossils Gastornis.
A man named Edward Drinker Cope discovered another set of fossils in North America in 1876. Cope named his set of fossils Diatryma. Diatryma means "through the hole". Cope used this term because of the great distance between the bird's three talons.
Scientists now believe that both birds belong in the same group. To date, fossil remains of this same bird have been found in France as well as North America (Wyoming and New Mexico), and Germany.
Scientists are divided when it comes to what these birds ate to survive. Some experts believe they used their parrot-like beak for crushing seeds and tearing vegetation such as rushes and tall grasses. Some scientists liken their beak to a scythe, able to cut down large areas of vegetation to feed its great appetite.
According to other scientists, the beak was perfectly designed with a hook at the end for tearing the flesh and crushing the bones of small mammals or larger mammals such as horses.
However, if this bird were a meat eater, he would have probably utilized pack-hunting techniques or ambushed his prey. Based on the fossil remains, this large bird wasn't terribly agile, so they would have had to use other methods to catch moving prey.
Scientists have also suggested that the large beak could have simply been for show. However, other flightless birds were primarily plant eaters, so it is possible Gastornis was also a plant eater.
To date, it has not been absolutely determined whether they were a vegetarian or a carnivore, and that isn't likely to change.
Gastornis was a
standing around 7 feet tall. During the time it was alive, it may very well have been the largest bird on the planet. Given its size, this big boy probably didn't have many, if any, natural enemies.
had three long talons on each foot and very powerful legs, which suggests that they were running birds. His head was very large in proportion to his body. The beak alone measured over 20 centimeters in length. They weighed in around 600 pounds,with small wings and a stubby tail.
It has been said by a few experts that this bird had some similarities to the Tyrannosaurus Rex, with its powerful legs and large head in proportion to its body.
At the time they inhabited the earth, they probably lived in a climate that was a relatively tropical climate with dense forests and lush vegetation.
They are classified as follows:
The species include: parisiensis, giganteus, ajax, russeli, and sarasin.
The most complete fossil assemblage of Gastornis or Diatryma can be seen in Wyoming at The Willwood Foundation.
Gastornis has been featured in documentaries, movies (Ice Age: the Meltdown), and books and even in the Dungeon and Dragons game.