Monday, March 24, 2014

Crested Guan//Hell Chicken

As an amateur bird enthusiast, my interest is always peaked when birds get a little bit of attention in the news. You can imagine how excited I was when I saw a headline like this one, from CNN.

Scientists Unveil Dinosaur Dubbed 'the chicken from hell'
or heard this story, from NPR

The 500-Pound 'Chicken From Hell' Likely Ate Whatever It Wanted

An illustrator's conception of Anzu wyliei.
Wow! A 10 foot tall, 600 pound bad-ass bird. Sounds pretty exciting. Most importantly, Anzu wyliei, as hell chicken is being called now, is the largest species of this type of bird/dino ever discovered in North America and gives scientists some insights into the development of modern birds. In fact, paleontologists have long considered birds to be the only real example of surviving dinosaurs. They share unique evolutionary features, like hollow bones and nest building behavior. The fact is, feathers fossilize so poorly that scientists today are unsure of which of our most beloved and famous dinosaurs were actually covered in pretty little feathers. Today's bird might not be quite as old as hell chicken, but he had some real staying power.

Crested Guan
Guanacaste, Costa Rica
Member of the Guan/Curassow Family

You can see the resemblance, right? Crested Guan here belongs to one of the oldest families of birds. Fossils of this sort of fellow date back as far as 50 million years ago. For reference, the dinosaurs all went extinct 66 million years ago. Some scientists have speculated that this bird's roots go back even further. What this guy is is essentially a large, tree dwelling turkey. Members of his family only still really exist in places that are wild enough that all the large game birds haven't been hunted to extinction by people yet. Rumored to be delicious, but your amateurnithologist wouldn't know a thing about that.

A wikipedia article about the origins of birds, in case you want to take a more in-depth look

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