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Demise Of Australia’s “Big Birds”


Fifty thousand years ago, the Mihirunga (Genyornis newtoni) ‘Thunderbird’ roamed Australia in large numbers.  This bird, weighing as much as 500 pounds and standing six-foot at the back, became extinct 45,000 years ago.  Scientists from Flinders University attribute the demise of the giant bird over a period of 5,000 years to humans gathering and consuming their eggs, reducing the rate of reproduction.  This conclusion was based on shell remnants that had obviously been treated by heat among remains of human settlements.


To date, it has not been possible to isolate DNA from bones of the Mihirunga.  Not that any Jurassic Park reintroduction of the bird would be possible.  From a commercial perspective, the Mihirunga had little breast meat was effectively wingless as with all ratites, but very large thighs and gigantic drumsticks. As with all heavy birds, egg production was a limiting factor to sustaining the population, especially after the arrival of human predators.