Phorusrhacidae: Predators worse than T-rex. They killed with their axe-like beaks


The prehistoric world still hides secrets that we are discovering bit by bit. Popular dinosaurs need no introduction. But a somewhat different fate befell the almost forgotten predators. Terrible birds, or terrorist birds, forusracids in Czech, were the most terrifying prehistoric predators that dominated South America for most of the Cenozoic era. Their beaks were like axes. What do we know about them?

Forusracids did not appear until after the era of the dinosaurs and became extinct about 2 million years ago when their reign of terror ended. Their extinction is related to the creation of the Panama Strait, which connected North and South America for the first time. There is clear evidence that terrarium birds migrated north. Their fossils were found in Texas and Florida, but then they encountered stronger predators such as jaguars and saber-toothed cats. They, on the other hand, migrated to the south and were stronger. The scarecrows began to die out. They were fighting for the same food sources and the climate change at the time did not suit them either. However, the exact cause of their extinction is still under investigation.

Watch the video here:

Source: Youtube

Who were the Phorusrhacidae?

The species, officially named Phorusrhacidae, had many different subspecies, the largest of which reached over 3 meters in height and weighed over 450 kg. They were very fast and thanks to their beak as sharp as an ax, they became top predators in their time, nicknamed terrorist birds or terror birds.

The Phorusrhacidae species was first described by Argentinian paleontologist Florentino Ameghino in 1887. He and his brother managed to find an incomplete jaw in Patagonia, which they at first thought to be some kind of eagle or hawk relative. They named the discovery Phorusrhacos longissimus. But later it turned out that instead of an eagle or a hawk, this prehistoric scarecrow was related to the seriema, a South American bird.

Forusracids did not appear until after the era of the dinosaurs and became extinct about 2 million years ago when their reign of terror ended.Source: YuRi Photolife /

Bird terrorists

The Forusracids ruthlessly ruled South America. They were huge, very fast and with massive beaks. Even though they could not fly, they could develop a speed of up to 96 km/h, i.e. the same as a fast car. They attacked, their beaks killing mercilessly. Even these monsters weren’t afraid to use their heads to kill, not just their beaks. Their heads dealt deadly blows.

Forusracids have about 29 different species, most of which are relatively small, around 120 cm. Among the monstrous species is the Kelenken guillermoi, which was discovered in 2004 and reaches a height of over three meters.

Scarecrow skeleton.Source: /

Kelenken was named paleontologist in 2007 Luise Chiappo. This led to the discovery of the largest known forusracid skull up to that time. It was actually the largest bird skull ever.

“A little cockatoo can rip your finger off,” says Chiappe, adding for completeness: “Imagine what such a bird could do, the damage it could do with a single blow from that massive skull and beak. So that’s probably one of the very easy ways to imagine that this is how these animals killed their prey.”

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A controversial theory

There is also a theory that forusracids barked rather than bited, arguing that they were herbivores rather than predators. When German scientists examined the calcium isotope composition of their bones, they found that they resembled herbivores more.

This document also discusses the scarecrows:

Source: Youtube

Even so, the carnivorous theory seems more likely, even if the strength of their bite is doubtful. We also don’t know what the Forusracids did for a living. But the sound of their voice was reconstructed after the discovery of a well-preserved specimen of Llallawavis scagliali in 2010. Thanks to the reconstruction of the inner ear of the forusracid, its inner ear canal was compared to living species and it was concluded that it sounded like an emu or an ostrich. “We’re able to say that the terns had a sensitivity to low frequencies – so they probably also made low-frequency sounds,” he said Degrangea scientist who analyzed the sound of forusracids.


The article is in Czech

Tags: Phorusrhacidae Predators worse Trex killed axelike beaks

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