The terror bird was a 10-foot-tall (3 meters) carnivorous bird which roamed the areas of South America about 1.5 million years ago. Now investigators have discovered an almost complete skeleton of what seems to be a new species of terror bird. The findings were published in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.
Terror birds were the top predator in South America after the extinction of dinosaurs 65 million years ago. They had strong hooked beaks and powerful legs which suggest that they most likely killed their prey with just a single blow and afterwards ripped right into the flesh.
The fossil was discovered on the cliffs of La Estafeta beach, a region close to Mar del Plata, a tourist destination. According to the lead author of the study, Federico Degrange, the tides posed a big challenge for the research team. They had to work fast otherwise the fossil could have been taken away and destroyed by the sea.
The newly discovered species was called Llallawavis scagliai. In Quechua “llallawa” means “magnificent”. It is the native language of people living in the central Andes. “Avis” is the Latin word for “bird”. “Scagliai” is used in the name of the bird as a sign of honor for the famous Argentine naturalist Galileo Juan Scaglia.
The discovery was made by researchers from Argentina, at the Universidad Nacional de Córdoba and Centro de Investigaciones en Ciencias de la Tierra. The fossil of the bird is almost 90% preserved which enabled paleontologists to have a better image of this species of predator birds.
The fossil has offered new details about the anatomy of terror birds such as the auditory part of the skull, the trachea, the voice box, the palate and the eye bones. According to the findings it seems that the terror bird was able to hear very low frequency sounds and consequently could communicate with low-frequency noises. This indicates that the predatory bird listened for footfalls when hunting its prey.
Federico Degrange explained that these findings place Llallawavis under the average of living species when it comes to hearing sensitivity. Since the vocalization range in the case of most birds falls in the lower half of the hearing sensitivity range Llallawavis is likely to have a low, narrow vocalization frequency range. At a lower frequency level of the hearing range the ear is not as sensitive to soft sounds. Evidence indicates that Llallawavis had more developed acoustic abilities even at lower frequency registers.
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