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Gastornis Eggshell

Gastornis Eggshell

LIMITED AVAILABILITY: We only have a small selection of these fragments. Once they are gone it is hard to say when (or if) they will return. However, if the are sold out do sign up for email notifications and we will let you know as soon as more return to the nest!

Above: Front of Specimen Card 

Standing over 6 feet and 7 inches (2 m) with a massive skull and beak, Gastornis struck an intimidating profile over the small mammals of 50,000,000 years ago. Although the Gastornis’ 9 inch (22 cm) long beak may call to mind the terror birds of Cenozoic South America, it is unlikely that this bird was a savage predator.

Gastornis lacked the physical characteristics that one might expect to see in a predator, such as a hooked beak or talons. In addition, modern isotopic dating reveals a geochemical makeup that matches with herbivores. It is more likely the large beak was used to tear apart dense plant matter and break open nuts rather than to consume small mammals.

This specimen is a fragment of a Gastornis eggshell from Provence, France. It dates to the early Eocene period, roughly 50,000,000 years ago. 

The specimen comes inside a classic, glass-topped riker display case measuring 4 1/2" x 3 1/2". A small information card is also enclosed. As pictured, the eggshell is also enclosed in a small acrylic specimen jar.

More About Gastornis

"These giant early birds arouse one to speculation; their presence suggests some interesting possibilities – which never materialized... What would the earth be like today had the birds won, and the mammals vanished?"

~ A.S. Romer, Man and the Vertebrates (1954)

Five species of Gastornis have been discovered around the world: G. parisiensis, G. russeli, and G. saransini in western Europe, G. gigantea, in the western United States, and G. xichuanensis in central China.

The majority of fossilized Gastornis eggshell fragments are found in the Provence region of France, and date back to the early Eocene, over 50,000,000 years ago. The eggs themselves were up to 7 inches (17.8 cm) long and 4.7 inches (12 cm) in diameter, weighing just over 3 pounds (1.4 kg) each. From these estimates, the parent Gastornis must have weighed between 300-340 pounds (136-154 kg), making it the largest terrestrial tetrapod on the European island continent.

It is unclear what led to Gastornis' extinction. It was able to coexist both with mammalian predators and, later on, even megafauna. Climate events seemed to have little effect on the species, as they were able to survive far past the Paleocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum. While the root cause of their extinction is unknown, they disappeared towards the end of the Eocene. Their closest modern relatives are waterfowl, such as geese and ducks.

Above: Back of Specimen Card

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