Original Paper


, Volume 98, Issue 10, pp 815-823

First online:

A Phororhacoid bird from the Eocene of Africa

  • Cécile Mourer-ChauviréAffiliated withLaboratoire de Géologie de Lyon, Université de Lyon, Université Lyon 1, CNRS, UMR 5276
  • , Rodolphe TabuceAffiliated withInstitut des Sciences de l’Évolution, UMR 5554, cc064, Université Montpellier II Email author 
  • , M’hammed MahboubiAffiliated withLaboratoire de Paléontologie Stratigraphique et Paléoenvironnement, Université d’Oran
  • , Mohammed AdaciAffiliated withLaboratoire de Recherche n° 25, Département des Sciences de la Terre, Université Abou Bekr Belkaïd
  • , Mustapha BensalahAffiliated withLaboratoire de Recherche n° 25, Département des Sciences de la Terre, Université Abou Bekr Belkaïd

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The bird fossil record is globally scarce in Africa. The early Tertiary evolution of terrestrial birds is virtually unknown in that continent. Here, we report on a femur of a large terrestrial new genus discovered from the early or early middle Eocene (between ∼52 and 46 Ma) of south-western Algeria. This femur shows all the morphological features of the Phororhacoidea, the so-called Terror Birds. Most of the phororhacoids were indeed large, or even gigantic, flightless predators or scavengers with no close modern analogs. It is likely that this extinct group originated in South America, where they are known from the late Paleocene to the late Pleistocene (∼59 to 0.01 Ma). The presence of a phororhacoid bird in Africa cannot be explained by a vicariant mechanism because these birds first appeared in South America well after the onset of the mid-Cretaceous Gondwana break up (∼100 million years old). Here, we propose two hypotheses to account for this occurrence, either an early dispersal of small members of this group, which were still able of a limited flight, or a transoceanic migration of flightless birds from South America to Africa during the Paleocene or earliest Eocene. Paleogeographic reconstructions of the South Atlantic Ocean suggest the existence of several islands of considerable size between South America and Africa during the early Tertiary, which could have helped a transatlantic dispersal of phororhacoids.


Aves Eocene Algeria South America Paleobiogeography Transatlantic dispersal