A fossil offers insight into prehistoric flightless birds

A fossil offers insight into prehistoric flightless birds

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A new species has been documented in South America thanks to a fossil showing a flightless bird named Llallawavis scagliai and it is shedding light on how predators interacted in their environment.

This new species is the most complete of a flightless bird known because the fossil is almost 90% preserved in good condition. The skeleton has revealed information on important anatomy details, something that is difficult to observe in the fossil record. The auditory region of the skull, the vocal cords, the complete trachea, bones to focus the eyes, the complete palate, have allowed us to obtain an extraordinary knowledge of the sensory capacities of these extinct predatory birds.

"The hearing capacity that has been estimated for this bird is lower than the average for current birds," explains Federico Degrage, head of the study at the Earth Sciences Research Center. “It seems that this species could have had a very low vocalization, which was probably used for communication or hunting for prey. It is the first time that the sensitive authority structures of a bird of this style have been reconstructed and have helped to explain the evolution, behavior and ecology of this species.

These birds, scientifically known as phorusracids, they were flightless carnivores that could grow to 3 meters tall and had a sharp beak. These birds were the dominant predators during the Cenozoic in South America.

"The discovery of this new species may offer new signs of studying anatomy and phylogeny," said Dr. Claudia Tambussi from the Earth Sciences Research Center and co-author of the study.
The new species discovered reached 1.21 meters and lived in Argentina about 3.5 million years ago approximately, during the Pliocene.

«The discovery of this species reveals that these terror birds were more varied than previously thought. It has allowed us to review our hypotheses about the extinction of this fascinating group of flightless birds.«Degrange has said.

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