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The terrible fororakosa birds

The terrible fororakosa birds

Here is a shot from the popular feature film Roland Emmerich "10000 years BC" . The main character is halfway between the Ural Mountains and Egypt fighting for his life in dense thickets of bamboo with a monstrous, but absolutely real inhabitant of our planet relatively recently - fororacosome , or "terrible bird" ( English. terror birds). These birds, similar to the “classic” carnivorous dinosaurs, are by no means invented by the scriptwriters, however, the correspondence of the frame from the film to the aspects of reality known today is over.

Fororakosy (family Phorusrhacidae) represented one of the branches of the evolution of birds, which, according to modern concepts of class taxonomy, belonged to the order of karyamoids (3–3–337. Cariamiformes 3–3–3260.). There were several families in the squad, representatives of which at different stages of 3–3–339. Cenozoic lived on the territory of four continents - Africa, Eurasia and both Americas. The oldest fossil representatives of the order are known from the Eastern Hemisphere. For example, in the early 3-3-334. Eocene 3-3-33260. Algeria in 2011 was found and described one of the oldest “true” fororakos - Lavocatavis africana , who lived 52–46 million years ago.

However, the representatives of the detachment experienced a true flowering on the other side of the Atlantic. Almost the entire well-documented history of the Fororakos family took place in South America - and this is the first reasonable question to the presence of these birds in the Old World in the Emmerich film. Back in the early chalk during the decay of Gondwana South America and Antarctica connected with it found themselves in a separate island position, as a result of which the evolution of the organic world for more than 100 million years proceeded here in a special way. After Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction 3-3-33260. South American mammals were able to generate many unique predatory forms like 3-3-3357. thylacosmilus and Borgien however, from about oligocene by early Pleistocene 3-3-33260. South America was the place where ecological niche The giant predators found themselves occupied by birds.

The terrible fororakosa birds

Reconstruction of the appearance of fororakos Andalgalornis steulleti from the late Miocene 3-3-33260. Argentina. Illustration © Chris Masna from artstation.com

All or almost all fororakosovye birds completely lost the ability to fly. To survive in harsh competitive conditions, they had other trump cards - powerful, allowing legs to run fast and huge, strong beaks. Giant forms are best known among fororacos. The largest of them are like Phorusrhacos and Devincenzia reached growth of more than 2.5 m and exceeded the mass of 3-3-3107. African ostriches . Skull kelenken ( Kelenken guillermoi ) Reached 71.6 cm in length, and its wide beak, vaguely reminiscent of the beak of modern whale-eye , was truly a murderous weapon, acting like a heavy ax or poleaxes . Obviously, this was not only a tool for hunting and butchering prey (they hunted for a wide variety of prey, up to mammals of equal sizes), but also more than a weighty argument in a dispute with other predators living side by side with warlike birds.

The terrible fororakosa birds

Kelenken guillermoi - One of the largest representatives of the group from the Middle Miocene of Argentina, pursues prey - a small mammal. Figure © Rushelle Kucala from artstation.com

About 2.7 million years ago (at the end of 3–3–3145. Pliocene 3–3–3260.) A momentous event occurred that left an indelible mark on our planet. Between North and South America rose Isthmus of Panama , which changed the map of ocean currents, with a high degree of probability influenced the beginning of the Ice Age and put an end to the long isolation of the South American biota. The formation of a “bridge” between the continents led to the phenomenon, later called The Great American Exchange : both North American and South American species rushed to previously uninhabited corners of the land, capturing accessible ecological niches and, if possible, crowding out competitors. The northerners were especially successful in this, but many southern invaders to the expanses of modern Mexico and the USA were able to successfully expand their ranges - as did the numerous 3-3-3151 for example. giant sloths and glyptodonic .

Fororacos were no exception. The remains of Titanis walleri , the last of the gigantic representatives of this family, belong to the Pliocene and Early Pleistocene 3–3–3161. Texas and Florida . Many of the details of the structure of this bird - in particular, the size and shape of the beak - are still unknown, however, the well-known speak in favor of the fact that it was a fororakos bird of a completely classical appearance with a height of more than two meters. For some time, the subject of discussions was the shape of her upper limbs: the relatively rigid joint of the bones of the wrist and, on the contrary, the movable fingers allowed 3-3-3165. suggest that the wings of the bird turned into a kind of claw or clawed paw like those of the giant Mesozoic 3-3-33260. theropod . However, the detection of similar anatomical features in 3-3-3171. kariam - the only living representatives of the order Cariamiformes having wings of the usual type for birds - actually put an end to on this exotic hypothesis.

The terrible fororakosa birds

Left - a hypothetical image of titanis Titanis walleri with unusual claw wings. Right - an image of a titanis with wings of a “traditional” type, apparently corresponding to the real state of affairs. Images from the site pan-aves.blogspot.com

At the end of the Late Pleistocene and in 3-3-33201. Holocene 3-3-33260. a wave of extinction of large and gigantic animals has passed across the planet, which in a curious way correlates with the process of resettlement of humans of a modern kind. So, in America, giant sloths and armadillos, horses and proboscis, many camelids and 3-3-3203 have completely disappeared. bovine ; many large predators became extinct and numerous carrion moths feeding on the remains of their feasts. But what happened to the Fororacos? Could there have been cases of direct collisions of the first settlers of the New World and these huge carnivorous birds, as was shown in the Hollywood blockbuster indicated above?

Until recently, titanis was considered the last representative of its family. It was assumed that by the end of their evolutionary history, fororakosy went into a large-scale niche and disappeared soon after an attempt to colonize North America, unable to withstand competition with placental predators - feline, canine and bear. Apparently, this was partly the case: according to the paleontological data available today, the early Pleistocene serves as a milestone in the existence of giant fororakos. The low level of preservation in the fossil record of bird bones allows the possibility of further "rejuvenation" of titanis or species close to it as a result of new discoveries. However, the fact that the ecological replacement of feathered predators by mammals took place before the discovery of America by the first people was not in doubt.

Nevertheless, now we can confidently say that the last representatives of the Fororakos family really survived until the late Pleistocene! In 2010 it was 3-3-3209. Declared about the discovery of fragment tarsus birds from this family in Uruguay, in deposits about 18 thousand years old, and then a team of American and Uruguayan specialists 3-3-33213. heralded about the discovery in the territory of the same country of two more similar finds of an older age - nevertheless related to the same period. But in all cases, it was a question of fororacoses of very modest sizes, not exceeding the mass of average cranes. None of the finds was identified to a species or described as a new taxon, but in one case, it was possible to establish a generic affiliation. Fragment of the left humerus turned out to belong to a bird of the genus Psilopterus .

The terrible fororakosa birds

Left - the skull of a small representative of the fororakos family Psilopterus lemoinei out of American Museum of Natural History . Photo from the site en.wikipedia.org . Right - reconstruction of the appearance of P. lemoinei . Figure © W. van der Merwe from deviantart.com

Thus, by now we can be sure of one thing: at least some species of fororakos were able to survive the consequences of the Great American Exchange and had real chances to cross in South America with the first people on the continent. However, these were the smallest species of the family, ecologically close to the living karyams and distinguished from them by a greater massiveness of addition and significantly larger beaks. Nevertheless, even in the case of high aggressiveness and lack of fear of humans, such fororacoses did not pose a serious danger - on the contrary, they could be exterminated by people or, more likely, disappear as a result of a combination of natural climatic and 3-3-33259. man-made transformations of habitats habitual to them.

Photo - frame from the movie "10000 years BC".

Pavel Smirnov

23 июнь 2020 /
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