Sunday, August 14, 2011

Samrukia nessovi, the prehistoric giant bird from Kazakhstan

Fig 1.- Very hypothetical reconstruction of Samrukia nessovi.

In a recent article published in Biology Letters, Darren Naish and colleagues named a new genus and species of Mesozoic bird, Samrukia nessovi, based on two pieces of lower jaw. The remains, hosted at the Wyoming Dinosaur Center in Thermopolis (Wyoming, USA), have been collected in the Bostobynskaya Formation of Late Cretaceous (Santonian-Campanian) age in Southern Kazakhstan.

Due to the fragmentary nature of the fossils, there isn’t much that can be said about the animal, save one remarkable fact: Samrukia was a giant bird. Even a crude extrapolation given by the size of the fragment of the lower jaw places the total dimension of the animal somewhere around 2 meters in length. The bird might have been a large flightless animal mimicking the bipedal non-avian theropods or a giant of the airs, mimicking the huge pterosaurs of that time, who knows? One thing is sure: Mesozoic birds were more diverse than previously thought, reaching sizes rivaling those of the non avialian dinosaurs living alongside them.

Fig 2.- Phylogenetic tree of birds closest dinosaurian relatives. Adapted from D. Naish et al., 2011. Compare with Xu et al., 2011.

There is however an interesting detail in the new phylogenetical analysis that was published alongside the paper in the supplementary electronic document. As in the Xu et al. paper mentioned in my previous post, the former “archetypal” ancestral bird, Archaeopteryx is knocked out of its perch as an Avialian but this time, it appears as a basal Paravian outside both the Avialae and the Deinonychosauria, alongside the Scansoriopterygids. As for Samrukia, the phylogenetic analysis shows that it was not quite a modern bird (Neornithes) but pretty close.

More about Samrukia on Tetrapod Zoology by the lead author of the paper himself.


Darren Naish, Gareth Dyke, Andrea Cau, François Escuillié and Pascal Godefroit. 2011. A gigantic bird from the Upper Cretaceous of Central Asia. Biology Letters,  in press.

X. Xu, H. You, K. Du and F. Han. 2011. An Archaeopteryx-like theropod from China and the origin of Avialae. Nature 475:465-470.

Original artworks on Paleoexhibit are copyrighted to Nobu Tamura. Do not use without permission.

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