Ancient Europeans lived alongside a half-ton bird nearly 12 feet tall
CNN - Thu 27 Jun 02:35 GMT

Inside a Crimean cave was a gigantic ancient mystery just waiting to be uncovered: a bird so large that it weighed nearly as much as an adult polar bear.

Ancient Europeans lived alongside a half-ton bird nearly 12 feet tall

  It was discovered along with other fossils, including bison bones, that helped researchers date the now-extinct giant bird to between 1.5 million and 2 million years ago.

  A study of the fossil published Wednesday in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology "When I first felt the weight of the bird whose thigh bone I was holding in my hand, I thought it must be a Malagasy elephant bird fossil because no birds of this size have ever been reported from Europe.

  This is the first time researchers have found a bird like this in Earth's Northern Hemisphere and the first time the size of the bird, named Pachystruthio dmanisensis, has been identified.

  It was similar to elephant birds that went extinct in the 1700s, which were usually hindered by size when it came to speed, but the femur found as part of the fossil was long and slender, making for a better runner.

  Elephant birds were blind, nocturnal and taller than Big Bird The femur is similar to that of the modern ostrich, which can reach a top speed of 43 miles per hour.

  The researchers believe that speed was key to the bird's survival because its bones were found alongside those of giant cheetahs, hyenas and sabre-toothed cats.

  Researchers were able to calculate the body mass of the bird based on measurements of the femur.