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Temporal range: Early-Mid Miocene (Colhuehuapian-Laventan)
20–13 Ma
Reconstructed skull, Royal Ontario Museum
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Cariamiformes
Family: Phorusrhacidae
Subfamily: Phorusrhacinae
Genus: Phorusrhacos
Ameghino 1887
Type species
Phorusrhacos longissimus
Ameghino 1887

Phorusrhacos (/ˌfɔːrəsˈrɑːkɒs/ FOR-əs-RAH-koss) is an extinct genus of giant flightless terror birds that lived in Miocene Patagonia. The type species is P. longissimus. The closest living relatives of P. longissimus are the much smaller seriemas. It is thought to have lived in woodlands and grasslands.

Phorusrhacos grew up to 2.5 metres (8.2 ft) tall and weighed approximately 130 kilograms (290 lb).[1] They had large skulls, up to sixty centimetres (24 in) long, armed with powerful, hook-tipped beaks. The structure of the beak and the large claws on the toes show that they were carnivorous.


Restoration by Charles R. Knight, 1901
Size comparison of Phorusrhacos to other predatory flightless birds and Gastornis

Among the bones found in the strata of the Santa Cruz Formations (now considered as mainly of mid-Miocene date) was the piece of a mandible which Florentino Ameghino discovered in early 1887 and the same year at first described as that of an edentate mammal which he named Phorusrhacos longissimus. The generic name is derived from Greek -φόρος, (-phoros), an element meaning "bearer" in word combinations, and ῥάκος, (rhakos), "rag" or "wrinkle", probably in reference to the wrinkled jaw surface.[2] When the original derivation was no longer understood, other translations were given, such as the literal translation of "Rag-Thief",[3] and "branch-holder" from the mistaken assumption the name had been intended to be derived from a Greek rhakis, "branch".[4] The specific name means "very long" in Latin, again in reference to the lower jaws. The holotype is the mandible, specimen MLP-118 (Museo de La Plata). In 1889 Ameghino emended the name to a more grammatically correct Phororhacos but the earlier name has priority. In 1891, it was by him recognized to be a bird.[5] Remains are known from several localities in the Santa Cruz and Monte León Formations in the Santa Cruz Province, of Argentina.[6]


  1. ^ Alvarenga, Herculano M. F. & Höfling, Elizabeth (2003): Systematic revision of the Phorusrhacidae (Aves: Ralliformes). Papéis Avulsos de Zoologia 43(4): 55-91 PDF fulltext
  2. ^ Ben Creisler, "Phorusrhacos “wrinkle bearer (jaw)”: Etymology and Meaning", Dinosaur Mailing List, 26 June 2012
  3. ^ ' Century Dictionary - Phororhacos
  4. ^ Editorial footnote by P.L. Sclater in: Lydekker, R., 1893, "On the extinct giant birds of Argentina", Ibis series 6, 5: 40-47
  5. ^ Ameghino, F., 1891, "Mamíferos y aves fósiles argentinas. Especies nuevas, adiciones y correcciones", Revista Argentina de Historia Natural 1: 240-259
  6. ^ Phorusrhacos at