New species of terror bird discovered
April 11, 2015 | 12 comments
Terror birds were vicious and highly effective predators. Image Credit: CC 2.0 Jim Linwood
Palaeontologists have successfully unearthed the most complete skeleton of a terror bird ever found.
Standing three meters in height and sporting a vicious hooked beak, these terrifying prehistoric flightless birds were a common sight in South America around 3.5 million years ago.
Resembling a cross between a modern day ostrich and a therapod dinosaur, the terror birds would have used their sharp beak and claws to effortlessly catch and feast upon their prey. It is believed that they disappeared around 2.5 million years ago due to increased competition from predatory mammals.
Now researchers have unearthed a host of new clues about these prehistoric predators thanks to the discovery of the near-complete skeleton of a new species on a beach in Mar del Plata, Argentina.
The specimen was particularly unique as it still had a complete trachea and mouth palate.
Scientists now believe that terror birds would have been able to hear and communicate in low frequency sounds, an advantage that would have helped them pick up the footsteps of their prey while also enabling them to communicate with one another over long distances.
"That actually tells us quite a bit about what the animals do, simply because low-frequency sounds tend to propagate across the environment with little change in volume," said Prof Lawrence Witmer.
The discovery has also helped to reveal how the animals would have killed their prey.
"Terror birds didn't have a strong bite force, but they were capable of killing prey just by striking up and down with the beak," said study lead author Federico Degrange.
Source: Live Science
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