Call That Bird 'Sir.' (Paleontology)
Monastersky, Richard, Science News
Call that bird 'Sir'
Imagine a 7-foot-tall flightless bird with a head larger than the one atop a polar bear. Over 50 million years, ago, such an animal actually walked the Earth. Called Diatryma, this fowl has long puzzled paleontologists, who wonder in particular what such a large, heavy bird ate for dinner. While one new study supports the mainstream view that Diatryma consumed animal flesh, a different analysis suggests it dined mostly on plants.
Lawrence M. Witmer and Kenneth D. Rose of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, along with Thomas M. Bown of the U.S. Geological Survey in Denver, performed a biochemical analysis of the Diatryma jaw, focusing on a recently discovered lower jaw found in the Bighorn Basin of northwest Wyoming. The fused junction between the right and left bones of the lower jaw was especialy strong for a bird, notes Witmer. He and his colleagues conclude that the strong bones could have withstood large biting forces generated by well-developed jaw muscles--which are evident from marks on the bone where the muscle attached.
The researchers think the Diatryma could cut through flesh and even possibly crush bone. …