Meet the exctinct hooked-beak South American terror bird

This is a skeleton of Llallawavis scagliai on display at the Museo Municipal de Ciencias Naturales Lorenzo Scaglia, Mar del Plata. Image: M. Taglioretti and F. Scaglia.

A new species of South American fossil terror bird called Llallawavis scagliai, or Scaglia’s Magnificent Bird, has been uncovered.

The find announced in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology is shedding light on the diversity of the group and how the giant extinct predators interacted with their environment.

The new species is the most complete terror bird discovered with more than 90% of the skeleton preserved.

The specimen also reveals details of anatomy that rarely preserve in the fossil record, including the auditory region of the skull, voice box, complete trachea, bones for focussing the eye and the complete palate.

“The mean hearing estimated for this terror bird was below the average for living birds,” said Dr Federico Degrange from the Centro de Investigaciones en Ciencias de la Tierra (CICTERRA), CONICET and the Universidad Nacional de C√≥rdoba, Argentina.

Terror birds, or phorusracids as they are known scientifically, were carnivorous flightless birds up to three meters in height with tall hooked beaks.

They lived in Argentina about 3.5 million years ago in the Pliocene Epoch.

“The discovery of this species reveals that terror birds were more diverse in the Pliocene than previously thought. It will allow us to review the hypothesis about the decline and extinction of this fascinating group of birds,” said Degrange.

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