andalgalornis

The flightless terror birds were the largest predators in South America for the vast majority of the Cenozoic. But this one… was from Africa.

Lavocatavis africana lived in Algeria during the early Eocene, about 52-46 million years ago. Known only from a single femur, it’s estimated to have stood 1.5m tall (5′), and seems to have been closely related to younger and better-known Argentinian species like Andalgalornis.

So how did it end up on a completely different continent? South America and Africa were already well separated, having first broken apart 130 mya, so a land migration couldn’t have happened. The South Atlantic was still much narrower than it is today, however – around 1,000km wide (621 miles) – so Lavocatavis’ ancestors may have “island-hopped” across the ocean via the now-submerged Rio Grande Rise and Walvis Ridge. (And the New World monkeys did in fact make the same trip in the opposite direction, so it’s not as unlikely as it might sound.)

The other animal depicted in this image is ‘Megalohyrax’ gevini. Hyraxes were the main herbivores in Africa during the Eocene and Oligocene, some reaching the size of rhinoceri. With ‘Megalohyrax’ standing at least 1m tall at the shoulder (3′3″), it was probably a little bit too large for a medium-sized terror bird like Lavocatavis to take down easily.