Unearthing a Dinosaur Bird’s Tracks

black and white image of a dinosaur skeleton of a "terror bird"
Skull of the terror bird (Paraphysornis brasiliensis)
Nestor Galina from Comodoro Rivadavia, Argentina, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The age of dinosaurs was far more than just infamous species like the fearsome Tyrannosaurus Rex, the gentle Brontosaurus, the flying Pterodactyls, and the Jurassic Park staging of the reptile-like Velociraptor, which dominate pop culture. Emerging fossil discoveries continue unveiling prehistoric animals lost to the depths of deep time and unlike anything roaming our modern world. A team of paleontologists recently uncovered the “first of its kind” fossilized footprints of the Terror Bird in Argentina.

Back in 2007, a fossil of a 10-foot ostrich-like bird appropriately named Terror Bird, was discovered in Argentina. The fossil revealed a fairly intact skull that showed an eagle-like beak that indicated it was a carnivore predator. A 28-inch limb fossil was also uncovered at the same time. This flightless bird may have weighed around 1,000 pounds. It roamed the landscapes of South America. Interestingly, we now have studies that show that a 7-foot terror bird was found to have also roamed in North America. Fossils have been uncovered in Texas and Florida. But those are stories all by themselves.

Ancient Tracks Reveal the “Terror Birds” of Prehistory

Recently, a team of paleontologists has uncovered the first-of-its-kind fossilized footprints of the terror bird in Argentina along the Atlantic Ocean coast. The research team, from the Universidad Nacional de La Pampa, was excited to have uncovered a consistent formation of a track by a terror bird. Their latest findings have been published in scientific reports and provide the science world with richer information about the wild dinosaur bird that once terrorized prey as it bore down on them.

This set of well-preserved prints that are fully formed provides a wealth of information for researchers to consider. They have been able to assume that the bird had a foot measuring 300m, which is nearly 12” in length. It had two large digits, with a smaller third digit. A curved claw was built in to allow the bird an easy means to disable their tracked prey.

All said, there was a total of 17 fossilized footprints, a yield that will keep the science world busy for some time. These footprints were figured to have been formed around eight million years ago.

Here is a link to the original journal paper found on Nature: Science Reports for you to do further research. In it, there are pictures, drawings, and much more information than recounted here.

The Terror Bird obviously, is no longer with us in any form, due to extinction.

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About the Author: Tony Ramos

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