In a unique discovery, scientists excavated a mostly complete skeleton of a huge bird that used to sneak and ambush its prey.
Close to a barren, dried-up lake in Southern Australia, scientists uncovered the remains of an ancient eagle, which is thought to have haunted its habitat some 25 million years ago, when the land was covered with lush forests and easy-to-catch prey.
The discovery cumulates a total of 63 well-kept fossils that make up most of the eagle’s skeleton.
Flinders University paleontologist Trevor Worthy, the co-author of a recently published study on the subject, refers to the discovery as “exquisite.”
Ellen Mather, the study’s first author and doctoral candidate in paleontology at Australia’s Flinders University, said that it’s a rare find to uncover even a single bone from a fossil eagle.
“To have most of the skeleton is pretty exciting,” Mather said, “especially considering how old it is,” she added.
Eagles are normally at the top of the food chain. Some of them rely on squirrels, prairie dogs, and rabbits as a source of food.
Worthy explained that eagles are normally fewer in number, which is why they are rarely preserved well as fossils.
The skeletal remains were discovered near Australia’s now-deserted Lake Pinpa.
The discovery deserves its title of “exquisite” due to two factors:
It is a rare find, and the skeleton belongs to one of the oldest, most fearsome eaglelike raptors on the planet.
“This species was slightly smaller and leaner than the wedge-tailed eagle, but it’s the largest eagle known from this time period in Australia,” Mather stated.
The wedge-tail are broad-winged birds of prey with comparable sizes to America’s bald eagle.
However, the so-called “wedgies” would supposedly win fights against bald eagles.
The prehistoric exemplar is dubbed as Archaehierax Sylvestris, and it was very different from all eagle families we know of today. It had a short wingspan, but that represented an advantage while hunting for prey.
It’s believed that it attacked its prey by ambushing it, as it was armed with an immense foot span of nearly six inches.
It might have attacked koalas, possums, and other similar animals.
“The largest marsupial predators at the time were about the size of a small dog or large cat, so Archaehierax was certainly ruling the roost. It was one of the top terrestrial predators of the late Oligocene, swooping upon birds and mammals that lived at the time,” said Mather.