45,000-year-old giant swan skull found in Australia

Photo: Fidel Forato

45,000-year-old giant swan skull found in Australia

45 thousand years ago, a type of prehistoric swan lived in Australia, which did not know how to fly and whose bite was powerful. This species of bird was nicknamed “giant swan” Genyornis newtoni Its height can be 2 meters and its weight can be around 230 kilograms. This weight is 50 times more than that a modern swan
that shapes the difference.

The prehistoric giant swan has been known since the 1910s, when the first fossils of this species were found in the arid zone of Australia. However, the bones were so fragmentary that it was not possible to estimate the physical characteristics of the creature. It was also nicknamed “Thunderbird”.

now one Nearly complete skull The discovery, made by researchers at Flinders University, has helped paleontologists better understand the species and its habits. Despite their similarities to swans and splitting the family tree into a few branches, they are not the common ancestors of these modern birds.

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Australia’s mysterious bird

“For the first time we’ve been able to give this bird a face,” says Trevor Worthy, co-author of the study published in the journal . Historical biology
in the note. “By using modern birds as comparisons, we are able to fill in the fossils and bring them back to life,” says Jacob Blokland, another author of the study.

The Australian species is “very different from any other bird, but similar.” [esteticamente] for a goose,” comments Worth. In the field of behavior, it is still unknown whether it was as cruel as with geese, the birds being used as “guard dogs.”

prehistoric giant swan

Analyzing the fossils of the now extinct creature, what has attracted the most attention is the unusual size of the braincase, which has been described as “enormous”. According to the authors, this There is no evidence of the extraordinary intelligence of prehistoric swans
. In fact, this structure turned out to be capable of supporting equally huge beaks.

, Genyornis newtoni had a high and mobile upper jaw like that of a a parrot
but in a form [semelhante ao do bico] The bite was apparently quite strong and had crushing capabilities. However, it was used mainly to eat plants and fruits.

There is an unusual bulge at the beginning of the beak, in front of the eyes, whose function is still unknown. The hypothesis is that it was related to fighting for females during mating season.

Species adapted to freshwater

Another interesting discovery is that these giant birds of Australia have acquired adaptations for the aquatic environment. For example, if they dived or kept their heads submerged in water, their ears and throats had natural protection against the flow of water. These features are seen today in modern birds that search for food underwater.

Adaptation to the aquatic environment may reveal one of the reasons that led to the extinction of the giant prehistoric swan. In the area where they lived thousands of years ago – at Lake Callabonna in southern Australia – fresh water reserves gradually dried up and the area became more arid, while the remaining water saw an increase in salinity levels. With the loss of habitat, they would have declined.

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Below, see the excavation site of Australia’s giant bird species:

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About the author: Cory Weinberg

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