A recently discovered 25-million-year-old fossil in South Australia is one of the largest hawks at that time, an apex predator that preyed on koalas, possums and other marsupials, a new study has found.
research was published in the journal historical biology and sheds more light on the long evolutionary history of raptors across the continent.
species, name Archiarx sylvestrisAccording to paleontologists from Flinders University in Australia, it is one of the oldest eagle-like raptors in the world.
“This species was slightly smaller and leaner than the wedge-tailed eagle, but it is the largest eagle known from this time period in Australia,” study first author and Flinders University PhD candidate Ellen Mather said in a statement.
“The leg was about 15 cm long, which allowed it to capture larger prey. The largest marsupial predators of the time were about the size of a small dog or large cat, so archheirax Was definitely ruling the roast,” Ms Mather said.
With eagles at the top of the food chain, scientists say they were always few in number and rarely preserved as fossils.
“It is rare to find even a bone from a fossil eagle. It is quite exciting to have most of the skeleton, especially considering how old it is,” said co-author and associate professor Trevor Worthy from Flinders University.
The findings suggest that ancient raptors lived in a now-lost ecosystem when the interior of Australia was covered with trees and lush forests that turned into a desolate sandy desert habitat.
Although archheirax Living in a lush forest, studies suggested it was adapted to avoid collisions with trees and branches while it was flying and hunting.
“Fossil bones show that the feathers of archheirax were small for their size, much like the species of eagles that live in the wild today. In contrast, its legs were relatively long and gave it considerable reach,” Ms Mather said.
“reveals a combination of these symptoms” archheiraxOne was nimble but not particularly fast and was most likely an ambush hunter. It was one of the top terrestrial predators of the Late Oligocene, swooping down on birds and mammals that lived at the time,” she said.
In this forest abode,archheiraxThe study said koalas may have pounced on koalas and other animals in the trees and hunted them.
the scientists saidarchheiraxOne of the most well-preserved of all the species found at the site was at a remote Outback cattle station. At this site, the team unearthed a partial fossil skeleton of a raptor containing 63 bones.
When researchers tried to figure out where the new species fit on the eagle family tree, they found many features not seen between modern hawks and eagles.
“We found thatarchheiraxDid not belong to any surviving generation or family. It seems to have been its own unique branch of the eagle family,” said Ms Mather. “Any species alive today is unlikely to have a direct ancestor.”
Credit: www.independent.co.uk /