Gastornis (Gas-tor-niss), Gaston's Bird, was a giant bird that lived in the Paleocene and Eocene North America and Europe. The discovery of fossils in North America and Europe indicates that although the continents were separate, a land bridge must have existed via Greenland. It was one of the first large animals to evolve after the extinction of the dinosaurs.
Genera and Species
Classification: Neornithes, Gastornithiformes, Gastornithidae, Gastornis
Species: G. parisiensis
Gastornis had a short, powerful neck, functionless forearms and thick legs. The large feet ended in small dull claws. The bird did not have a hook on the end of its beak - a feature found in all raptors which helps them to hold prey and tear into carcasses. The closest relatives would be ducks.
LENGTH: 2 m (7 ft).
WEIGHT: 385 lbs.
The lack of large carnivorous mammals has made Gastornis (=Diatryma) the plausible candidate for apex predator. This now seems unlikely based on the recent bone analysis of the calcium isotopes. It could have used its beak to harvest foliage, fruits, and seeds from the subtropical forests that it inhabited.
History of Discovery
Discovery, Hébert 1855, but the fossils were fragmentary and Cope found better-preserved fossils that he named Diatryma. Shell fragments and track ways have been attributed to Gastornis.
Found in Europe and North America in dense forests with a moist-to-dry subtropical-to-tropical climate.