An artist's illustration of the giant elephant bird.
c Jaime Chirinos

A team of Russian researchers has discovered the fossilized remains of a gigantic bird that had roamed with humans at least two million years ago. Initial analysis of the fossil revealed that this giant had weighed half a ton and it stood nearly 12-feet tall.

The research report published in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology revealed that experts at the Russian Academy of Sciences unearthed the fossils of this creature named Pachystruthio dmanisensis in Crimea's Taurida Cave.

Initially, after discovering the fossil, researchers thought that these bones were that of the elephant bird. However, further analysis of these fossils revealed an all-new story about these ancient remains.

"When I first felt the weight of the bird whose thigh bone I was holding in my hand, I thought it must be a Malagasy elephant bird fossil because no birds of this size have ever been reported from Europe. However, the structure of the bone unexpectedly told a different story," said Nikita Zelenkov, a researcher at the Russian Academy of Sciences and the lead author of the study in a recent statement, CNN reports.

However, researchers are still clueless whether Pachystrutho dmanisensis was related to the ostrich family. When compared to already-extinct elephant birds, these newly discovered birds are thought to be better runners due to their slender body structure.

"We don't have enough data yet to say whether it was most closely related to ostriches or to other birds, but we estimate it weighed about 450kg. This formidable weight is nearly double the largest moa, three times the largest living bird, the common ostrich, and nearly as much as an adult polar bear," added Zelenkov.

The research report also noted that these birds might have provided meat, bones and feathers for the early human population.