‘Terror birds’. The stuff of nightmares, an army of these meat-eating critters were as tall as ten feet and ruled over South America for tens of millions of years before they went extinct around 2.5 million years ago.
A new species of these winged behemoths was recently named Llallawavis scagliai, providing a fresh insight into this B-rated horror flick waiting to happen (Birdnado anyone? Birds On A Plane?!). Over 90 percent of this new bird’s fossilized skeleton was dug out of northeastern Argentina in 2010, the most complete terror bird specimen ever found on earth.
Llallawavis had likely lived around 3.5 million years ago, close to the end of terror birds’ reign researchers have said. Unfortunately, it was a measly four feet tall and weighed around forty pounds. A Cassowary is probably more terrifying than this poor specimen of a formerly-fearsome creature.
Researchers had CT scans of the bird’s inner ear structures that indicated that its hearing was tuned for hearing low-pitched sounds. They say that it likely produced kinds of ostrich-like sounds.
“The mean hearing estimated for this terror bird was below the average for living birds,” study lead author Federico Degrange, of the Universidad Nacional de Córdoba in Argentina, said in a press release. “This seems to indicate that Llallawavis may have had a narrow, low vocalization frequency range, presumably used for intraspecific acoustic communication or prey detection.”
“It’s rare to find such a complete fossil of anything, let alone a bird,” Dr. Lawrence Witmer, an Ohio University paleontologist who wasn’t involved in the new research, told Science magazine. “This is a very exciting find.” “The discovery of this species reveals that terror birds were more diverse in the Pliocene than previously thought,” Dr. Federico Degrange, a researcher at the Center for Research in Earth Sciences in Argentina and the team leader of the group that had identified the new species, said in a written statement. “It will allow us to review the hypothesis about the decline and extinction of this fascinating group of birds.”
Researchers hope that more analysis of its remains will reveal the answers to questions regarding the bird’s vision as well as its other senses.
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