Gigantic Turkeys Ruled Australian Treetops

Another dangerous creature to add to the list

As we all know, Australia has a long list of animals, insects and even plants that could kill us. From the blue ring octopus to the great white shark Australia is a country of poison, bites and stings, housing some of the world’s most deadly and dangerous wildlife.

Travel back a few million years and Australia was even more dangerous. Megafauna and flora, enormous birds and terrifying reptiles littered the Australian landscape.

Unsurprisingly Palaeontologists from Flinders University revealed that Australia was home to at least five species of giant birds. One such bird was a turkey the size of an adult grey kangaroo that would soar across the treetops.

"It's been quite surprising because whereas before, we suspected there may have been one or two extinct species whose identity was uncertain, we've actually discovered that there were five different species running around Australia prior to humans arriving on the continent," lead author of the research and PhD candidate at Flinders University Elen Shute said.

The extinct Megapode inhabited Australia as recently as 10,000 years ago. Unlike their gigantic flightless cousins, the turkey had the ability to fly due to their thin bone structure their weight (they only weighed 8 kilograms).

According to researchers, despite their “nuggety” bodies, these =turkeys would roost in the treetops. This could be because they lacked feet capable of digging mounds like their modern relatives. They were most likely omnivores feasting on plants, small reptiles and insects.

The study published in the Journal of Royal Society Open Science, explains how diverse the giant birds actually were:

“These discoveries are quite remarkable because they tell us that more than half of Australia’s megapodes went extinct during the Pleistocene,” explains lead author Elen Shute.

The discovery of the new bird species came after fossils found in Curramulka Quarry in southern Australia in 1990 were analysed further. The team’s results revealed the three new species.

Climate change and human interaction are thought to be the reason the giant turkeys went extinct.

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