, 98:815 | Cite as

A Phororhacoid bird from the Eocene of Africa

  • Cécile Mourer-Chauviré
  • Rodolphe TabuceEmail author
  • M’hammed Mahboubi
  • Mohammed Adaci
  • Mustapha Bensalah
Original Paper


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 



We thank the vice-chancellors of Tlemcen and Oran Universities, and the authorities from Bechar and Tindouf districts, who assisted fieldwork in the Gour Lazib area. We thank H. Alvarenga, S. Chapman, and M. Daniels for supplying information, and A.-L. Charruault for technical assistance. We also thank two anonymous reviewers for constructive comments. This research was supported by the French ANR-PALASIAFRICA Program (ANR-08-JCJC-0017).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Cécile Mourer-Chauviré
    • 1
  • Rodolphe Tabuce
    • 2
    Email author
  • M’hammed Mahboubi
    • 3
  • Mohammed Adaci
    • 4
  • Mustapha Bensalah
    • 4
  1. 1.Laboratoire de Géologie de LyonUniversité de Lyon, Université Lyon 1, CNRS, UMR 5276Villeurbanne CedexFrance
  2. 2.Institut des Sciences de l’ÉvolutionUMR 5554, cc064, Université Montpellier IIMontpellier Cedex 05France
  3. 3.Laboratoire de Paléontologie Stratigraphique et PaléoenvironnementUniversité d’OranEl M’naouerAlgeria
  4. 4.Laboratoire de Recherche n° 25, Département des Sciences de la TerreUniversité Abou Bekr BelkaïdTlemcenAlgeria

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