Odds and quads

This sculpture of a "terror bird", with painted polystyrene eye, can be found in the Alfred Denny Museum at the University of Sheffield.

September 20, 2012

Like ostriches on steroids with the ferocity of eagles, 18 species of "terror birds" - technically known as phorusrhacids - roamed South America between 60 million and 2 million years ago. As predators at the apex of the food chain, they are believed to have used their enormous hooked beaks to disable and dispatch their prey. They stood between 1m and 3m tall, with the largest known skull left by one species measuring 72cm in length.

The Alfred Denny zoological museum offers a vivid picture of the diversity of life on Earth, how animals' bodies work and why they behave the way they do. Creatures on display include everything from tiny fossilised flying dinosaurs to a dolphin that once turned up in a Sheffield fish market.

Although actively used for teaching, the museum is rarely open to the public, but some of the collection will be on display as part of the Sheffield Festival of the Mind (20-30 September). It will also include tours and a lecture by the museum's curator, the zoologist Tim Birkhead.

Send suggestions for this series on the treasures, oddities and curiosities owned by universities across the world to matthew.reisz @tsleducation.com

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