- Education and Science»
- Life Sciences»
Demon Ducks of Doom
This is some duck!
A lot of people think Australians make up stories to pass the time. That may or may not be true. But the Demon Ducks of Australia are certainly true.
The Demon Duck is dromornis stirtoni, weighing over 500 kilos and nearly 3 metres tall, indeed the biggest bird that ever lived.
Commonly known as Stirton's Thunder Bird, this huge flightless bird lived in subtropical open woodlands in Australia during the late Miocene, roughly 8 million years ago.
Meet the 'Demon Duck of Doom'.
If it walks like a duck ...
If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, then it's a duck even if it's 10 foot tall and weighs 1500 lbs.
Perhaps it didn't quack, we don't know, these ducks are extinct.
Demon Duck meets Camel
This is a BIG duck
Dromornis stirtoni was bigger than the Giant Moa of New Zealand and even bigger than the enormous Elephant Birds of Madagascar.
Unbelievably, these ducks were close to 10 foot tall with massive strongly-muscled legs for speedy running. A giant duck that can RUN!
Some of its bones are huge. A toe bone is 10 times the size of a human finger. The jawbone is described as big enough to play tennis with.
Demon Ducks in Stone
This is a Dangerous Duck
For many years the Demon Ducks were thought to have eaten mainly tough-skinned fruits and seed pods. Pleasant-natured vegetarians nibbling their way (though in large quantities) through the countryside.
But closer scrutiny of the shape and size of its skull and bill suggests a different story - some scientists believe it concentrated on meat.
Can you imagine this? A duck, bigger than a camel, which eats meat? Definitely a bird to avoid.
Fossil Beds of Central Australia
Alcoota Station Fossil Beds
Next time you're in Alice Springs, drive north east for a few hours. You'll find yourself in one of the most important paleontological sites in Australia - the Alcoota Station.
The fauna in the fossil beds is about 8 million years old, with a rich concentration of vertebrate fossils. In particular, the fossils of Australian megafauna.
It's amazing what's in here. Herds of the wombat-like diprotodontoids, the wolf-sized Powerful Thylacine (Thylacinus potens), the large leopard-sized Alcoota Marsupial Lion (Wakaleo alcootaensis) and our old friend Dromornis stirtoni, commonly known as Stirton's Thunderbird, the Demon Duck of Doom.
Look at that map! Nothing there. Nothing at all, just the Fossil Beds of Alcoota
Nothing but dust. And fossil beds
In Western Victoria. the Tjapwuring people tell of the Mihirung paringmal which they once hunted before the Europeans came.
Mihirung paringmal is Big Bird in their language.
Dromornis stirtoni lived up to about 50,000 years ago, and the Aboriginal people have been here for 60,000 years.
Did they really hunt the Demon Duck a mere three hundred years ago?
The last of the Australian megafauna became extinct a mere 20,000 years ago and the cause of the extinction is still being debated .But who knows, there may have been some left.
Keep an eye out for giant birds when you're travelling, you never know.
Why is this a Dead Duck?
The Aboriginal people arrived here about 60 thousand years ago, and these earlier peoples used fire as a tool for changing landscapes as well as for driving prey while hunting. Did this signal the end of the last megafauna?
It can't be denied that wherever humanity has spread, there have been drastic reductions in the populations of other animals, and our appearance has coincided with the disappearance of whole species.
Did people eat the giant ducks into extinction?
Demon Ducks of Doom and Killer Kangaroos
See? I didn't make it up!
How about you?
What if you saw a Demon Duck alive and well?
Maybe they just ate themselves out of existence.
All comments are greatly appreciated. You don't have to be a duck (of any size) to leave yours
© 2010 Susanna Duffy