Giant cousins of brush turkey roamed ancient Australia – Science News – ABC News


If you think the brush turkey tearing up your garden is a menace, consider yourself lucky you’ll never meet its relatives.

Key points

  • Australia once home to five large megapodes, relatives of the brush turkey
  • Three of those are new species revealed in fossils from WA and SA
  • Finding could debunk notion brush turkey descended from large megapode ancestor

Analysis of fossils suggests Australia was once home to five species of now-extinct giant megapodes — chunky, chicken-esque cousins of modern mound-building brush turkeys and malleefowl.

The largest of these extinct birds weighed 8 kilograms and was about four times the size of today’s brush turkey.

“It’s been quite surprising because whereas before, we suspected there may have been one or two extinct species whose identity was uncertain, we’ve actually discovered that there were five different species running around Australia prior to humans arriving on the continent,” lead author of the research and PhD candidate at Flinders University Elen Shute said.

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