Temporal range: Late Eocene to Early Miocene 37–20 Ma
Bathornis grallator skull.
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Cariamiformes
Family: Bathornithidae
J. Cracraft, 1968

Bathornithidae is an extinct family of birds from the Eocene to Miocene of North America. Part of Cariamiformes, they are closely related to the still extant seriemas and the also extinct Phorusrhacidae. They were likely similar in habits, being terrestrial, long-legged predators, some of which attained massive sizes.

It has been suggested that most, if not all, North American Paleogene cariamiforme fossils are part of this group.[1] Storrs Olson also referred the european Elaphrocnemus to this clade,[2] though it has since been rejected.[3] Conversely, some analysis have instead recovered them as a polyphyletic group, with Bathornis and kin being sister taxa to phorusrhacids while Paracrax is rendered closer to modern seriemas,[4] though this assessment is heavily debated.[5]

The most recent consensus is that Bathornithidae is relegated exclusively to Bathornis/Neocathartes, as a clade of Cariamiformes outside of a clade including seriemas and phorusrhacids, as well as a possible european specimen. Paracrax and Eutreptornis are understood to be odd taxa whose cariamiform affinities are not fully resolved.[6]


Life restoration of Bathornis veredus, yawning.

Though some forms like Paracrax wetmorei might have been capable of flight, most taxa were flightless,[7] constituting examples of flightless birds in mammal dominated environments. Paracrax gigantea, Paracrax antiqua and the larger Bathornis species in particular might have occupied macropredatory niches akin to that of phorusrhacids, the former and later reaching heights of over 2 meters.

Bathornis proper appears to have favoured wetland environments. It was a highly diverse genus, spanning a wide variety of species at various sizes, from the Eocene to the Miocene.[8]


  1. Gerald Mayr (2009). Paleogene Fossil Birds
  2. Olson, Storrs L. (1985): Section X.A.I.b. The Tangle of the Bathornithidae. In: Farner, D.; King, J. & Parkes, K. (eds.): Avian Biology 8: 146–150. Academic Press, New York.
  3. Gerald Mayr (2009). Paleogene Fossil Birds
  4. Federico L. Agnolin (2009). "Sistemática y Filogenia de las Aves Fororracoideas (Gruiformes, Cariamae)" (PDF). Fundación de Historia Natural Felix de Azara: 1–79.
  5. Mayr, G., & Noriega, J. I. A well-preserved partial skeleton of the poorly known early Miocene seriema Noriegavis santacrucensis (Aves, Cariamidae).
  6. Gerald Mayr (2016). "Osteology and phylogenetic affinities of the middle Eocene North American Bathornis grallator—one of the best represented, albeit least known Paleogene cariamiform birds (seriemas and allies)". Journal of Paleontology 90 (2): 357–374. doi:10.1017/jpa.2016.45.
  7. Cracraft, J. (1968). "A review of the Bathornithidae (Aves, Gruiformes), with remarks on the relationships of the suborder Cariamae". American Museum Novitates. 2326: 1–46. Retrieved 2016-04-28.
  8. Benton, R. C.; Terry, D. O.; Evanoff, E.; McDonald, H. G. (25 May 2015). The White River Badlands: Geology and Paleontology. Indiana University Press. ISBN 978-0-253-01608-9.
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