Phorusrhacos Lived: 27 million years ago - 15,000 years ago.Only partial fossils of Phorusrhacos have been found at Monte Hermoso in Argentina. Recent finds of its North American form, Titanis, in Texas and Florida are completing the picture.

Type: Terror Bird
Diet: Carnivore
Size: 3m tall
Protection status: Extinct
Pronunciation: FOR-uss-RAH-kuss
Latin name: Phorusrhacos longissimus
Meaning: "rag bearer"
Animal Type: Bird
Dietary Type: Carnivorous - Small mammals and any carcasses
Closest Living Relative: Seriema birds
Size: 3m tall


Phorusrhacos belonged to a group called the Terror Birds. The earliest known Terror bird, Aenigmavis, only the size of a modern chicken, was found in the 49 million year old Messel deposits of Germany. However, in South America Aenigmavis' descendants became huge and were the continents top predator for millions of years until the cats arrived from North America.

The first Terror Birds date back to the Messel shales, used to reconstruct the Eocene world of program 1. Then, however, they were chicken-sized - hardly a terror - and would have run from the giant birds like Gastornis. In South America, though, they became fierce predators, and moved into North America when the two continents collided.

Bird fossils are always very rare because they have such lightly built, hollow bones. Despite its size, Phorusrhacos is no exception, and until recently there was very little skeletal material. Recently an underground sinkhole was discovered in Florida containing preserved bones from the North American form. An impressive claw, which seems to have been part of the wing exists amongst these fossils. Although the rest of the wing is missing, claws on birds' wings are not unheard of, and so we can guess how it would have looked. How it was used is a different matter.

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