An eagle with an almost 10-foot wingspan patrolled the skies over southern Australia more than 60,000 years ago. Gaff's mighty eagle, Dynatoaetus gaffae, has talons strong enough to snag a koala or a baby kangaroo for food. The enormous raptor was probably the biggest continental eagle ever observed in history.
The biography of this bird was pieced together by a group of Australian fossil hunters from Flinders University, according to a paper that was released on March 16 in the Journal of Ornithology. Between 1956 and 1969, four sizable fossilized bones were discovered at Mairs Cave in the Flinders Mountains of southern Australia. The authors discovered an additional 28 bones strewn among the site's stones, which helped them improve their understanding of this enormous extinct bird.
This now extinct raptor is connected to Pleistocene vultures that swarmed across Asia and Africa. Its nearest living relative is probably the severely endangered Philippine Eagle, a monkey-eating bird. Dynatoaetus was probably the greatest avian predator on the earth during the late Pleistocene Epoch, when massive megafauna like the mammoth roamed the planet and ice sheets and glaciers were expanding.
Dynatoaetus fills a void left by the absence of huge terrestrial predators in prehistoric Australia, according to research author and Flinders University paleontologist Ellen Mather. This finding shows that Australia's magnificent family of birds used to be considerably more diverse and that raptors were also affected by the cataclysmic extinction that wiped off the majority of Australia's megafauna.
A new genus of raptors that is exclusive to Australia is represented by Dynatoaetus and the smaller bird Cryptogyps, which was just recently described.
"Dynatoaetus was extremely large. Larger than any eagle from other continents and nearly as big as the largest eagles ever recorded, which were once found on the islands of New Zealand and Cuba, including the enormous extinct 13 kg [28 lb] Haast's eagle of New Zealand, said Trevor Worthy, a study co-author and paleontologist at Flinders University.
Moreover, Dynatoaetus coexisted with the Australian species known as the Wedge-tailed Eagle. This has interesting ramifications, according to the team.
Given that Australian birds of prey used to be more diversified, it is possible that the Wedge-tailed Eagle's previous range and diet were more constrained, according to Mather. If not, it would have been directly vying for those resources with the enormous Dynatoaetus.
Most of the megafauna on the continent, including the majority of Australia's eagles and vultures like the Dynatoaetus, went extinct about 50,000 years ago. Extreme environmental change and degradation (water loss, greater burning of trees and grass, etc.) that wiped off at least 13 super-sized megafauna species, including the largest wombats and kangaroos in the world, was suggested as a potential reason in a 2020 study.
세계를 읽는 눈 - 뉴스네이션
저작권자 ⓒ 뉴스네이션, 무단 전재 및 재배포 금지