Teratornis merriami Skull measures 9x4x4 inches. Teratornis Merriamai Skull is museum quality polyurethane cast. Made in USA. 2-part skull (separate cranium and jaw).

According to description of 1945, Teratornis merriami had a wingspan of around 11 to 12 feet and a wing area of 17.5 square meters, standing an estimated 30 in. tall.

It was somewhat larger than the extant Andean condor, and by calculating the area of the organism’s sternum and synsacrum, Teratornis was estimated to weigh about 50 lb., which was nearly double the weight of an average Californian condor.

The Teratornis merriami was similar to condors, although an analysis of the functional morphology of its skull, namely its larger bill and ability to spread its mandibles and swallow its prey whole, suggests that it was an active and carnivorous predator rather than a scavenger.

Teratornis merriami was also well adapted to hunt for smaller animals which are also known to have utilized the pools.

Analysis of the skull and bill shapes suggests that fish may have constituted a major part of its diet.

Taking into account the strong legs, stout claws, and a gripping power not quite as developed as in eagles, it is rather likely that Merriam’s Teratorn would have hunted for aquatic prey in the manner of an osprey.

This also provides a reasonable explanation of how such large numbers of powerful, well-flying birds could have become stuck in the asphalt.

Studies of skull morphology indicated that the Teratornis Merriamai were incapable of tearing pieces of flesh off of carcasses in the manner of condors.

Many old world vultures possess large bills, and a longer bill is a common feature among scavenging raptors, as this allow them to probe deeper into larger carcusses.

Other anatomical features, such as the relatively small and sideward facing orbits and the low skull, are also consistent with a scavenging lifestyle.

Teratornis had legs that were too short for it to take flight by running on flat ground. It is theorized that the Teratornis primarily inhabited cliff terrain, where it could take off and soar through the air easily.

Many T. merriami bone samples contributing to modern research have been found at the La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles, California.

Teratornis merriami are thought to have been attracted by Pleistocene megafauna that became stuck and died in the viscous asphalt while trying to drink from pools of water that gathered on the surface, with the teratorns subsequently falling victim to the sticky deposits.

T. merriami probably played an important role in opening up the body cavities of carcasses for smaller birds like eagles and ravens which are also known to have frequented the locality.

For the Teratornis merriami, small prey such as frogs, lizards, young birds, and small mammals were swallowed whole, while carrion would have been fed on in a manner similar to that of condors or vultures.