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Fossil Analysis Reveals That Giant Flying Turkey Once Lived In Australia

15 June 2017, 8:32 am EDT By Andrew Norman Tech Times
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A reconstruction of Progura, right, alongside a kangaroo and modern bush turkey. A new study revealed that giant flying turkeys once existed in Australia. These creatures were one of the five giant megapode birds that were discovered while examining fossilized remains of these extinct species.  ( Kim Benson | Tony Rodd | Aaron Camens )

Researchers from the Flinders University in Adelaide found that a giant flying turkey once roamed in ancient Australia. The scientists found that the giant flying turkey is one of the five extinct large megapode birds, which once existed in Australia

The palaeontologists from the Flinders University revealed that the Australian flying turkey and all other large extinct megapode birds are related to modern-day Brush-turkeys and Malleefowl. However, the Australian flying turkey — whose height is equivalent to a gray kangaroo — dwarfs the other extinct birds thanks to its sheer size.

Kangaroo-Sized Flying Turkey Lived In Ancient Australia

The palaeontologists evaluated megapode fossils from New South Wales, Queensland, Western Australia, and South Australia. After careful evaluation and comparison it was found that the fossil remains belonged to five different species of megapode birds, which are extinct. These five different species of extinct megapodes' weight ranged from 6.6 pounds to 17.6 pounds.

The weight variation is four times more that the modern-day Malleefowl, which weighs roughly 4.4 pounds. The researchers also discovered that the birds co-existed with giant marsupials such as marsupial lions, short-faced kangaroos, and diprotodons all of which are extinct.

"These discoveries are quite remarkable because they tell us that more than half of Australia's megapodes went extinct during the Pleistocene, and we didn't even realise it until now," researcher Elen Shute said.

Co-researcher Trevor Worthy stated that not much was known about the existence of the kangaroo-sized flying turkeys in Australia as the fossil remains were not properly evaluated — until now. He also noted that palaeontologists are examining the fossil remains in detail and, therefore, more discoveries are in the cards.

The "Tall Turkeys"

The palaeontologists shared that under the extinct megapodes come the "tall turkeys," falling in the Progura genus. These "tall turkeys" had slender, long legs while the "nuggetty chickens" species of megapodes came with broad bodies and short legs and fell under the genus Latagallina.

Unlike its modern-day Australian cousins, these giant megapodes did not construct mounds, as they did not have specialized claws or large feet to create them. A strong possibility exists that the extinct Australian flying turkeys buried their eggs in soil or warm sand just like some present-day megapodes found in the Pacific and Indonesia.

However, unlike some massive and extinct birds such as the Dodos, the Australian megapodes were able to fly. Although their body structure was big and bulky, they had strong wing bones. This helped the kangaroo-sized flying turkeys roost in trees and take flight.

The researchers are confident that the deeper they look into the fossil remains of these Australian flying turkeys, the more information they will glean about the creatures.

"The closer we look, the more we keep finding," they shared.

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