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Feb 12, 2016 03:11 PM EST

Scientists Confirm Large Flightless Bird Live in High Arctic

A team of scientists confirmed a decades-old discovery of a large flightless bird that lived in the high Arctic some 50 million years ago.

Published in the journal Scientific Reports, the new study details a single fossilized toe bone that starkly resembled one of a similar animal that lived in Wyoming around the same time. The toe bone appeared more than 2,700 miles north in the Arctic's Ellesmere Island.

"We knew there were a few bird fossils from up there, but we also knew they were extremely rare," study co-author Jaelyn Eberle, a geologist at the University of Colorado - Boulder, said in a press release.

The researchers named the bird Gastornis, though it was once known as Diatryma, and its resemblance to the Wyoming specimen discovered in the 19070s is uncanny. Its head was as large as that of a horse and grew to be six feet tall and weighed hundreds of pounds.

"I couldn't tell the Wyoming specimens from the Ellesmere specimen, even though it was found roughly 4,000 kilometers (2,500 miles) to the north," study co-author Thomas Stidham, of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing, said in the release. "Given the fossils we have, both hypotheses are possible.

"There are some sea ducks today that spend the winter in the cold, freezing Arctic, and we see many more species of waterfowl that are only in the Arctic during the relatively warmer spring and summer months."

(Source: CU - Boulder)

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