Researchers have discovered fossils of a new species of terror bird that was 10 feet tall and lived in Argentina 3.5 million years ago.
Researchers from the Centro de Investigaciones en Ciencias de la Tierra and the Universidad Nacional de Córdoba in Argentina have discovered fossils of carnivorous birds with hooked beaks standing 10 feet (3 meters) tall and who roamed parts of South America in search of prey. They added that it is the most complete terror bird fossil ever discovered, with over 90% of the skeleton preserved, meaning it can shed light on the predatory group of birds.
The researchers have named the new species Llallawavis scagliai. ‘Llallawa’ means magnificent in Quechua. It is the language that is native to the people of the central Andes. Also ‘avis’ means bird in Latin. The species name honors the famed Argentine naturalist Galileo Juan Scaglia.
The researchers have stated that the specimen has revealed new details of anatomy that are rarely preserved in the fossil record. This includes the auditory region of the skull, the voice box, trachea, eye bones and palate. This helped the researchers to build an unprecedented understanding of the sensory capabilities of terror birds, helping to explain behavior and ecology of this group of extinct birds.
According to the researchers, the Llallawavis scagliai could hear very low frequency sounds compared to other birds. They also found it communicated with low-frequency noises, suggesting it hunted its prey by listening out for footsteps.
Federico Degrange, an assistant researcher of vertebrate paleontology at the Centro de Investigaciones en Ciencias de la Tierra and the Universidad Nacional de Córdoba, and the lead author of the study, said, “Our estimations of hearing sensitivity in Cariamiformes places Llallawavis below the average for living species. Because the vocalization range of most birds falls within the lower half of their hearing sensitivity range, Llallawavis may have had a narrow, low vocalization frequency range. At the lower frequency end of the range of hearing, the ear becomes less sensitive to soft sounds. It seems plausible to hypothesize that Llallawavis had enhanced acoustic abilities at lower frequency registers.”
The findings were published in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.