Dromornis Stirtoni and The Rusted Earth

As I recently finished a novel set in 1890s Australia – called The Rusted Earth – with surviving megafauna, I became obsessed with the thunder birds, or Dromornithae. In particular, I very much love the Dromornis Stirtoni, one of the oldest, and the largest of the thunder birds, measuring at 3 metres tall. Why am I in love with them? I’m not sure. I suppose I’m in love with all of Australia’s megafauna. Who wouldn’t be?

Here’s one artists impression, and here’s one of the sections from the novel:

The handsome cab rattled past the great Town Hall, the thunder bird’s powerful legs driving it past a three-storey tram, top-hatted clerks hanging from its sides beside rough-looking workmen. The dromornis stirtoni turned its head, and Detective John ‘Jack’ Lynch caught a glimpse of the bird’s intense red beak. It ruffled its black feathers and let out a savage cry — like that of a screaming hawk — scattering fearful passersby in all directions. An older relative of the smaller and more recently evolved descendent, the genyornis, the dromornis was a truly ancient species. Though they were now increasingly facing extinction, zoologists suggested the birds had survived for millions of years. From it’s wild scream, Jack didn’t doubt it.

Possessing greater speed and endurance than horses, these great thunder birds were the most sought-after steeds for hansom cabs. Jack was lucky his driver, Kenny Lee, had managed to procure this one. Kenny had also fitted out the hansom with compartments filled with all sorts of equipment so that it was practically a mobile expeditionary vehicle. Kenny Lee was a man of practical ingenuity and the future. He kept an eye on the latest technologies, especially those emerging from China and the rest of the orient. As a result, he was always ahead of the rest of the police force’s engineers.
From his place beside Miss Healy, Jack watched as emu-driven rickshaws — the birds seemingly tiny beside the dromornis — ducked in front of them, then dashed away, like a little fleet of mosquitos, their scrabbling on the cobblestones which had been laid during the boom years of the 1880s, when the city was known as ‘Marvellous Melbourne’.

How the city had fallen in recent years, thought Jack. Fallen, like everything.

Here’s a picture featuring a Dromornis’s skeleton, with a stylish guy beside for scale.


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