Thursday, October 28, 2021

Eagle-like raptors ruled the skies of Australia 25 million years ago

27 September (WNN) — Paleontologists in Australia have recovered one of the world’s oldest and best-preserved raptors.

Researchers found the remains of an ancient bird of prey on a remote animal farm in the outback.

25 million-year-old raptor bones – detailed Monday in the journal Historical Biology – were concerned with Archiarx sylvestris, an eagle-like species that ruled the skies of Australia during the end of the Oligocene.

“This species was slightly smaller and thinner than the wedge-tailed eagle, but it is the largest eagle known from this time period in Australia,” first study author Ellen Mather said in a press release.

“The leg spread was about 15 centimeters long, which allowed it to capture larger prey. The largest marsupial predators of the time were the size of a small dog or large cat, so archheirax That “was definitely ruling the roost,” said Mather, a doctoral candidate at Flinders University.

Because ancient raptors were at the top of the food chain, their population numbers remained relatively modest, making raptor fossils rare – and well-preserved raptor fossils even more rare.

“It is rare to find even a bone from a fossil eagle,” said co-author Trevor Worthy, an associate professor at Flinders. “It’s very exciting to have most of the skeleton, especially considering how old it is.”

Raptor remains were recovered from the shores of an ancient lake. Today, the outer part of Australia is a dry and desolate place, but the interior of the continent was once very wet and covered with dense forest.

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Many birds of prey prefer to hunt grasslands and freshwater habitats, where they can climb and dive without weight. Navigating tree limbs while pecking at prey requires special evolutionary adaptations.

Although archheirax The largest flying predator of its time, its wingspan was relatively small, allowing the bird to take sharp turns and navigate tight quarters. Today, most wild raptors also sport short wings.

whereas archheirax Had short wings, it’s stature, however, was not that small. The bird’s long legs and large claws extended its reach, allowing it to easily snatch small mammals from tree trunks and forest floors.

“The combination of these symptoms suggests archheirax One was agile but not particularly fast and was most likely an ambush predator,” Mather said. “It was one of the apex terrestrial predators of the Late Oligocene, pecking at birds and mammals that lived at the time. “

the neatly preserved remains of archheirax Not only did it help researchers better understand how the eagle-like raptor lives and hunts, but it also helped scientists properly establish the species on its family tree.

“We found that archheirax Did not belong to any surviving generation or family. It appears to have been its own unique branch of the eagle family,” Mather said. “It is unlikely to be a direct ancestor to any species alive today.”

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