Birds are one of the amazing fauna that has graced our planet found on all seven continents, they also come in a plethora of shapes and sizes and also call a vast variety of biomes their home. The vast majority of birds that exist on our planet are excellent examples of just how much evolution has played its part in the cycle of life on our planet. But what if the so-called birds of paradise possessed deadly claws that could slice up your belly and jaws that had such power that could crush you immediately to death? Terrifying isn’t it, well this is what would have been if the terrible tyrants that were wiped out 65 million years ago still existed to this day.
To talk about feathered tyrants is to talk about dinosaurs and prehistoric birds, that existed from the Triassic Period 243 million years ago till the middle Miocene around 1.7 million years ago. These animals were one of the most intriguing species of megafauna to walk on our planet. Their origin, however, might surprise you! I’ll be talking about some of these prehistoric animals along with some of their characteristics and compare them with some of their modern counterparts.
The first entry on this list is the Nothronycus, these animals were one of the dinosaurs that lived during the Late Cretaceous around 91 million years ago in America, it is the only therizinosaurid to be found in America while other dinosaurs of this family were found in China and Mongolia.
They measured around 4.2 meters (13.7) long and 3.5 meters (11.3ft) tall weighing around 800 kgs, with a more distinct bird-like hip and four-toes. Nothronycus are related to predators like Tyrannosaurus Rex, which might easily portray an image that these impressive animals were also vicious predators but there’s a catch, Nothronycus wasn’t a predator, it was a leaf-munching herbivore feasting on foliage from the trees around it. It used its long claws that measure around 30 cm which they used to pull down branches and remove the bark of the trees. They would also use these claws to defend themselves from predators.
Well, imagine that you live in prehistoric North America in the Cretaceous period, you’re casually strolling around the area unknowingly, without fear of any sort, then suddenly you start hearing loud snorting and grumbling of a big animal that feels uncertain about something that you’ve never heard before gradually you start hearing some rumbling around you, and as you try to bolt out of there, there’s complete silence, not a crisp of foliage moving but as soon as you think it’s safe, that’s when the jaws come down on you, crushing every bone of yours.
Measuring 40 feet in length and 12 feet in height this beast weighed 7 tons and possessed the strongest bite force of any land animal that ever existed, the Tyrannosaurus Rex was capable of clamping down its jaws with a bite force estimated to be around 12,800 psi! Well, that bite force is good enough to take the life out of any living organism. Luckily we don’t share the same timeline as them, otherwise would’ve been sitting ducks for such a beast.
Several myths were postulated during the movies that Tyrannosaurus Rex can only see movement but here’s the catch, by just looking at the skull of this beast, it's visible that this animal had the best visual acuity out of any animal alive. They had a wide binocular field of vision up to 55 degrees, that’s 13 times the field of a human. So yeah, the answer is yes they can easily see their prey even if they don’t move, not only interesting but also terrifying isn’t it?
Let’s just say that you’ve survived the wrath of the Tyrannosaurus Rex, but there are still many dangers lurking in the jungles of the Cretaceous. As you travel through the foliage, you end up tripping on something.
As you notice what you stumbled upon, you see a larger animal likely dead, but, you hear a few grunts and whistles. Suddenly, there is movement in the body it moves ever so slightly and a head rises drenched in blood, with some chunks of meat in its jaw, it locks eyes with you, giving a horrifying stare, a stare that is accompanied by a disturbing call. As you try to slowly turn away and run, the animal jumps on you and a sharp takes over you as if someone struck your back with a sharp knife, you're stuck with nowhere to go while more of these come for the new slaughter and another notch from one of the raptors immobilises you with intense pain but this time near your belly and with your eyes on them, you place your arm near your belly and there’s an odd sensation something warm and slippery, gradually the realisation sinks in that you are holding onto your intestines. Slowly, you lose consciousness and as they start tearing you open the sight of these dinosaurs slowly fades away and with the last breath comes a final wish that this nightmare should end.
Now, as mentioned with the Tyrannosaurus Rex, the velociraptors in Jurassic Park were made quite large compared to their real-life counterparts. The fossil evidence that was found shows that velociraptors were near 6 feet long and a foot tall making them a prehistoric turkeys yet they were just as deadly. They had 3-digit claws with a 6.5 cm foot claw in the middle toe, which was held up in the air. With several theories about the raptors being pack, hunters have also been known thanks to the movie of course, but there's a catch, despite being called pack hunters, they as per recent research possibly didn't know show this behaviour at all, it is suggested that velociraptors would hunt like Komodo dragons, where one would start the hunt and others would come to assist and bring their prey down.
Now, we come towards the Miocene period, the fall of dinosaurs bought and the rise of mammals and birds. Let's say that you've entered the Pleistocene jungles of North America, and you've entered the prairies. As you move forward throughout the plains the only thing you're able to have a visual of is the vast savannah and some trees and bushes for cover. As you wander around, you hear shrieking sounds and hide in nearby bushes. As you hide there's a foul stench, something unpleasant as you try to locate the source of the sound, that's when you see it, a 2-meter-tall bird feasting on a fresh kill, and just as the animal goes on doing its business, a strong breeze passes by in your direction and you close your eyes just to prevent dust getting in those eyes of yours, but as you open them the animal's gone! you try to grasp your senses and search for the animal but all goes in vain some liquid drops on your shoulder something slimy and as you try to grasp the gravity of the situation, there's a soft whistling sound right above you and as you look above, the big tyrant is staring down at you. You both lock eyes and stare at each other down before it grabs you and thrashes you, shattering every bone of yours in the process.
As brutal as it might sound, it is revealed by the fossil records of these animals that Titanis Walleri was an animal that couldn't turn its head left or right but was an excellent predator thanks to the strong beak and the strong muscles that supported it, making it equivalent of a strong axe that would be a nightmare to its prey and thrash them till every bone in its prey breaks. As mentioned before, Titanis Walleri stands around 1.9 to 2.2 meters tall and weighed in around 150 kgs. Powerful legs allowed them to run at speeds up to 65 km/ph (40 mph). These animals were one of the apex predators of their period that sadly came to an end around 2.3 million years ago with the Great American Interchange that bought a plethora of mammals that migrated from South America to North America, increasing competition and racing Titanis Walleri to extinction
Well, this is a special one and it's one of the most impressive discoveries in today's time. We all hold a certain level of affection towards animals there are many common faunas like tigers, and parakeets and one of the most adorable animals is penguins. We are well aware that penguins come in different sizes and pretty much play a vital role in the food cycle of their ecosystems.
But what if the penguins we know today would be around 7 feet tall and would give the impression of being deadly, well the colossus penguins certainly fit the bill.
This titan of a penguin was nearly 7 feet tall and weighed near 115 kg. Found in the La Meseta Formation on the Seymour Island in Antarctica, this species of extinct penguin lived around 37 million years ago and their big size allowed them to hold their breath for up to 40 minutes underwater. Just like their modern-day counterparts, they would hunt fishes, krill and squids.
The size comparison with their modern-day counterparts and you'll realise just how amazing these animals were during their time.
So, this is my take on some of the feathered tyrants that existed in prehistoric Earth. This article in general provides an insight into the megafauna from the past and the write-up, in general, is something new for a change with some more added elements. I hope you'll enjoy it. As always, stay safe and take it easy.