What, If Anything, Is Big Bird?

By Carl Zimmer | June 30, 2010 8:58 am

Zoologist Mike Dickison throws his hat into the dinosaur comedy ring (yes, dinosaur):

[Hat tip to the brother in Jersey]

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Evolution, Link Love

Comments (17)

  1. It’s not a ratite? Damn!

  2. When I was little and watching Sesame Street I told my mom that Big Bird was cross between an ostrich and a Pelican.
    The ostrich is understandable, the Pelican I can only attribute to the fact that we had one that hung around our boat and I had named it Big Bird.
    I don’t remember telling her this. But its a famous family story.

  3. Jim Kirkland
  4. John-Paul Hodnett

    OMG AWESOME! That was probably one of the best talks I’ve seen this year.

    Now the follow up talk should be on the mysterious large mammal that has a relationship with this large flightless crane and whether or not it is a long tailed proboscidean or a trunked xenarthrian!

  5. Dave Weishampel

    Damn! And I thought it might turn out to be a feathered non-avian dinosaur…

  6. I can but agree with some luminaries here: Great fun.

  7. I’m out of time to watch the video (sorry), but a moa surely?

    (I’m biased: moas, like me, are from New Zealand. Or rather were. I don’t think I’ve gone extinct.)

  8. He had me at “tibiotarsus”

  9. Grant: moas have highly HIGHLY reduced forelimbs. Grandicrocavis, on the other hand (so to speak) does not.

  10. Eric

    I would have thought it was a highly modified therizinosaur. Smaller claws, more feathers (possibly), and reduced dentitition. Then the fingers, neck, gut and posture would match and all you would need to do is make the tail extremely vestigial.

    Big “Bird”, obviously, is a modern colloquial taxonomic identification.

  11. The number of people who have tried to convince me that Grandicrocavis is non-avian… Last I looked, it wasn’t the Mesozoic any more, guys. What’s more plausible: last surviving non-avian dinosaur, OR, it’s a bird? See, this is why we need DNA.

    And Snuffleupagus is surely a dwarf island mammoth. But I’ll leave that debate to the mammalogists.

  12. Pretty good post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I
    have really enjoyed reading your blog posts.

    funny pictures

  13. Richard

    Awesome!!!! Love all your comments as well! Thanks to Anisa for the link to that site, it’s hilarious!!!

  14. Pat O'Driscoll

    Sorry, but he admits he did not have an actual skeleton, and he only hypothesized the skeletal morphology. Looking at the actual observations he in fact gave, we can see that the much reduced tarsometatarsus is more consistent in what we see in Therizinosaurs, than what we see in the family Gruidae with their greatly increased tarsometatarsal region. Also, the extremely large gut is more in line with a more herbivorous animal that utilizes a large bacterial fermenting for cellulose breakdown. Again, this is more consistent with Therizinosaurs.

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The Loom

A blog about life, past and future. Written by DISCOVER contributing editor and columnist Carl Zimmer.

About Carl Zimmer

Carl Zimmer writes about science regularly for The New York Times and magazines such as DISCOVER, which also hosts his blog, The LoomHe is the author of 12 books, the most recent of which is Science Ink: Tattoos of the Science Obsessed.

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