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Archive for September 25th, 2010

many, and varied

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at the Central Park Zoo – photo by Mitch Waxman

Curious variation and variegation typifies the avian specie. Its ability to specialize and concurrently speciate around those adaptations is surely one of the great wonders of the world. Would that it were possible to see the great birds of earlier times similarly on display in modern times, like the Titanis Walleri.

from wikipedia

It was 2.5 metres (8 ft 2 in) tall and weighed approximately 150 kilograms (330 lb), but with large variance (perhaps indicating strong sexual dimorphism). Though its head has not been found, it certainly would have been large, with a huge, axe-like beak, as in its relatives.

The wings were small and could not have been used for flight. The wing bones articulated in an unusual joint-like structure, suggesting the digits could flex to some degree. It also had a relatively rigid wrist, which would not have allowed the hand to fold back against the arm to the same degree as other birds. This led one scientist, R.M. Chandler, to suggest that the wings may have supported some type of clawed, mobile hand similar to the hands of non-avian theropod dinosaurs. However, it was later pointed out that this wing joint is not in fact unique, and is present in seriamas (modern members of the same bird group to which Titanis belonged), which do not have any specialized grasping hands.

Written by Mitch Waxman

September 25, 2010 at 12:15 am

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