|Giff and Marilyn at Geny Heaven (top); Megafauna: Geny is the large bird (bottom)|
No one you’ve ever met has ever seen a Genyornis newtonii. That’s because around 45,000 years ago they went extinct. Like the emu, the Genyornis was a large, flightless bird. However, they were very heavily built and, as a result, were not the fastest movers. The large bird stood tall at around 2.2 meters with a weight of around 200-250 kg. With powerful legs, tiny wings, an enormous beak and hoof-like claws, the Genyornis has affectionately been nicknamed the ‘demon duck’.
Fossils of Genyornis bones and eggs have been found throughout the south, west, and east of Australia. During the time period that the Genyornis lived, these regions of Australia were probably more temperate grasslands. It is believed that the Genyornis ate mostly fruit and nuts with the occasional small prey, but these are guesses based on what their fossil bones look like. As in modern birds, the Genyornis had no teeth and therefore relied on small stones called ‘gizzard stones’ to help grind up and digest their food.
|Riding trikes to get to remote field areas: Marilyn and Giff Miller, 2002|
We also don’t know if Genyornis ate small mammals, insects, and lizards like the emu does. Data from the ancient Genyornis reveals that it is highly likely that they did. How these large, flightless beasts were able to capture fast-moving prey is not known.