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Big bird terrorized South America

From Mesa, Ariz., at a meeting of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology

Researchers working in Argentina have discovered fossils that may represent the heftiest flightless bird to ever have roamed the planet.

The fragmentary remains—a nearly complete skull and a foot bone called a tarsometatarsus—belonged to a member of a group of flightless birds called the phorusrhacids, or terror birds. The 72-centimeter-long skull, which has the stout, hooked beak characteristic of these predators, is by far the largest phorusrhacid skull ever found, says Sara Bertelli of the American Museum of Natural History in New York. That dimension suggests that the adult height of the newly identified bird, which lived in Argentina about 16 million years ago, was 2.3 meters, about the size of the tallest pro basketball player.

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