Approximately 3.5 million years ago, a terror bird that roamed South America used to stalk its victims by listening to their footsteps hitting the ground, scientist discovered recently. The fossil of a three-meter tall (10 feet) carnivorous bird – with a hooked beak and low voice – was discovered in Argentina, offering scientists new insight on how the food chain looked back then.
The fossil was first uncovered in 2010 near Mar del Plata, a coastal city in eastern Argentina. Unlike previous discoveries, the team took its time to reassemble the bones and the results were astonishing. More than 90 percent of the skeleton was preserved, making it the most complete skeleton discovery ever of what the research team described as ‘terror bird’.
According to Federico Degrange, assistant paleontology researcher at the Centro de Investigaciones en Ciencias de la Tierra and the Universidad Nacional de Córdoba in Argentina, the near-completeness of the skeleton enabled the team to make some interesting and weird discoveries about the bird, such as how it sounded or how it stalked its prey.
The researchers named the freshly discovered species Llallawavis scagliai, honoring the native inhabitants of the central Andes. In their language “Llallawa” means magnificent, while the other part of the name, “avis”, is the Latin word for “bird”. The species – scagliai – is named after Argentinian naturalist Galileo Juan Scaglia, and the skeleton of the terror bird was put on display in Mar del Plata’s Museo Municipal de Ciencias Naturales Lorenzo Scaglia, in Argentina.
Scientists were able to gathered detailed data on the bird’s anatomical constitution, since the skeleton is so well preserved. It is the first specimen discovered with a complete trachea and complete palate – the roof of the mouth. While this offers enough knowledge about the bird’s voice, researchers were able to corroborate this features with detailed facts about the predator’s sensory ability.
They came to the conclusion that L. scagliai used low-frequency sounds to communicate, which might have been an advantage for a predator trying to stalk his prey undetected. Also, the research team was able to recreate the inner year of the terror bird, and revealed that the predator was also highly sensitive to low-frequency noises. Scientists suggest that this allowed the flightless bird to actually hear the footsteps of its target as they hit the ground.
“Low-frequency sounds are great for long- communication, or if you’re a predator, for sensing the movements of prey animals,” as explained by Prof. Lawrence Witmer, with the Ohio University. The L. scagliai was also able to keep in touch with other members of its species, since “low-frequency sounds tend to propagate across the environment with little change in volume,” Prof. Witmer further detailed.
Image Source: Meherbabawords
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