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Paleontologists studying fossils of the giant flightless bird Diatryma (or Gastornis) had concluded that it was a predator because of its size (over 2 metres (7 ft) tall), huge head and beak. Also, Diatryma had been found preserved alongside bones of small mammals, presumed to have been the bird's prey. It has often been illustrated in both scientific literature and popular media as a fierce creature, terrorizing other animals. Many know it as "the bird that replaced dinosaurs as the top predator".
But the recent discovery of Diatryma footprints preserved in sandstone found in northwest Washington, USA, has forced a rethink. Diatryma is now said to have been not a carnivore, but a "gentle herbivore".
"[The tracks] clearly show that the animals did not have long talons, but rather short toenails," said David Tucker of Western Washington University. "This argues against an animal that catches prey and uses claws to hold it down. Carnivorous birds all have sharp, long talons."
What's more, Diatryma did not have a hook on the end of its beak—a feature found in all raptors, which helps them to hold prey, and tear into carcasses. But the rush to portray Diatryma as carnivorous previously overrode any circumspection as to its diet. Co-researcher George Mustoe, also of Western Washington University, mused: "Let's be honest: scary, fierce meat-eaters attract a lot more attention than gentle herbivores."
Indeed they do. And the widespread media emphasis on cruel carnivory just happens to reinforce the evolutionary notion that it was dog-eat-dog forces that have brought all creatures, including man, into being – i.e. by evolution.
In stark contrast, the Bible says that originally all creatures were created according to their kind and were vegetarian. It also warns that people would come to deliberately forget this, and the Flood of Noah's day, too (2 Peter 3:3-6) – thus defrauding themselves of the true explanation for birds and mammals being buried together, and the exquisite preservation of footprints in (now-cemented) sand. •
? Giant Eocene bird was 'gentle herbivore', study finds, bbc.co.uk, 23 November 2012.