Researchers have found an almost complete skeleton of a species of 10-foot-tall carnivorous bird with hooked beak. The so called terror bird used to roam trough South America in search of prey around 3.5 million years ago, but now scientists are discovering surprising things about their anatomy and especially their hearing.
The results of the study were published Thursday in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.
Researchers found the excellently preserved fossil back in 2010 on a beach in Mar del Plata, a city on the Atlantic coast of Argentina. To their surprise, the fossil is the most intact skeleton of a terror bird ever discovered, with approximately 90 percent of its bones preserved.
Federico Degrange, the study’s lead researcher, named the new species Llallawavis scagliai. The assistant researcher of vertebrate paleontology at the Centro de Investigaciones en Ciencias de la Tierra and the Universidad Nacional de Córdoba in Argentina offered the fossil this interesting name from “Llallawa” a term that means “magnificent” in Quechua, a language used by the people from the central Andes, and “avis,” which is “bird” in Latin. The name also honors the prestigious Argentine naturalist Galileo Juan Scaglia (1915-1989).
The researchers that the bird’s skull was more tough than those of other birds. A skull like that could have aided the terror bird to slam prey with its huge and powerful beak.
The specimen is the first known terror bird with a complete roof of the mouth and complete trachea. The fossil even include the complicate bones of the bird’s ears, brain box and skull, eye sockets, which offers scientists an unparalleled glimpse at the flightless creature sensory capabilities.
An analysis of the bird’s inner ear network aims towards the fact that the terror bird perceived low-frequency sounds,which is a huge advantage for predators. It hunted by listening for the low noises made by their prey’s footsteps as it touched the ground, the scientists added. The new discovery also suggest that the terror bird also used low-frequency noises for communication.
“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,” explained Lawrence Witmer, a professor of anatomy at Ohio University.
Among other animals that could hear low-frequency sounds were dinosaurs Tyrannosaurus rex. In present times, crocodiles, rhinos and elephants are also capable of doing this.
Image Source: International Business Times