Friday, September 11, 2009

Baby-Eating Birds

[from Brad Smith]

A giant New Zealand eagle, extinct now for 500 years, may have snacked on human babies.

In a paper published in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, scientists make the case that an extinct giant predatory eagle might have been eating children. The eagle was not a scavenger, as some believed, but a deadly hunter. . .

The real significance of the paper is that the bird wasn't the scavenger that some paleontologists thought it was. It's evolutionary characteristics and brain size, as measured using CAT scans, indicate that it was more of a big-game hunter.

The paper also offers another example of how rapidly evolution can happen in a closed ecosystem like an island. The eagle's body grew much faster than its brain, in this case. This growth was apparently due to the availability of much larger prey. This prey was most likely the moa bird, but the study also suggests that the eagle might have victimized small children.

Of course, the eagles also carried Hobbits to safety, so the news isn't all bad.

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1 Comments:

Blogger Sean Craven said...

Whenever I've read about this sucker it's been described as a moa eater. When it comes to eating humans, I'm going to avoid a really obvious pun.

7:02 AM  

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