Over millions of years, Australia's unique biodiversity has produced a large cabinet of curiosities. Among the weirder members of this group were the Mihirungs, members of the now extinct family Dromornithidae. Made up of several genera of flightless birds – among them one of the very largest birds that ever lived – the dromornithids ranged from 60-kilogram beasts, 1.5 meters tall, to giants twice that size, weighing nearly half a metric ton. They were, by orders of magnitude, the largest "geese" that ever lived. One species was comparable in size to the Elephantbird of Madagascar and the Giant Moa of New Zealand. Magnificent Mihirungs is the first major study of this unique and highly diverse group. It aims to present as complete a synthesis as possible of current information about this fascinating family of birds.
1. The Discovery of the Dromornithids
II. Systematics and Morphology
2. Mihirungs: Extinct, Gigantic Australian Geese
4. Overview of Dromornithid Species, Localities, and Associated Fauna
5. Description of Dromornithid Structure
6. Relationships and Phylogeny
7. Dromornithids and the Origin of Anseriform Birds
8. Relationships within the Dromornithidae
9. Appearance, Posture, and Stature
10. Body Mass Estimations
11. Could Dromornithids Run?
12. The Feeding Apparatus
13. The Economy of Scale
14. Evidence from Local Faunas
15. Habitat and Diet
Appendix: Basic Avian Skeletal Morphology
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Peter F. Murray is a researcher at the Museum of Central Australia in Alice Springs.
Patricia Vickers-Rich holds a Chair in Palaeontology at Monash University, where she lectures in the Earth Sciences Department. She is co-author (with Thomas H. Rich) of Wildlife of Gondwana: Dinosaurs and Other Vertebrates from the Ancient Supercontinent (IUP, 2000) and Dinosaurs of Darkness (IUP, 2000).