Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Australian scientists unearth 25 million year old eagle fossil

Scientists have discovered an ancient eagle fossil in South Australia that lived 25 million years ago.

The fossil is one of the earliest examples of the Accipitridae family (eagles, Old World vultures, and falcons) from Australia, which is named Archaehierax sylvestris, Ancient Greek for ‘falcon’.

The fossil of Pimpa Lake in South Australia was found on an outback cattle ranch.

Trevor Worthy, the lead paleontologist and co-author of the new study, said it was an extraordinary discovery.

“I’ve studied this system for many years, and it’s the best fossil ever found,” Worth said.

Yug Times Photos
Paleontologists at Flinders University excavate fossils near Pimpa Lake, South Australia. (Trevor Worth / Flinders University)

With 63 bones discovered, it is one of the most complete fossils from late Oligocene sedimentary layers in Australia, as most birds are named based on a single bone.

“It is rare to find even a bone from a fossil eagle. It is very exciting to have most of the skeleton, especially considering how old it is,” said Lol.

Yug Times Photos
Yug Times Photos
Comparison of the wedge-tailed eagle Aquila audax (right) and a hypothesized silhouette of the finished fossil Tarsometatarus (leg bone) and Archaeherax sylvestris (left). The scale bar is 10 mm long. (supplied)

Fossil bones showed that it had relatively short wings and long legs.

Alain Mather, PhD candidate at Flinders University and co-author of the study, said: “The combination of these traits suggests that Archyarax was an agile but not a particularly fast flier and was most likely an ambush predator. “

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“It was one of the top terrestrial predators of the Late Oligocene, swooping down on birds and mammals that lived at the time.”

With claws up to 15 cm long, the majestic bird may have hunted koalas, koalas and other tree animals in ancient Australia.

The researchers said the completeness of the fossil raptor has allowed them to determine where it fits on the eagle family tree.

“It shows a number of features unlike any between the modern hawk and eagle,” Mather explained.

Their analysis suggests that Archerax was probably not closely related to any extant raptors.

“It seems to have been its own unique branch of the eagle family,” she said. “Any species alive today is unlikely to have a direct ancestor.”

Jesse Zhang

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This News Originally From – The Epoch Times

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