Paleontologists in South Australia have found the oldest species belonging to the eagle, and it is millions of years old.
The 25-million-year-old fossil was discovered on the remote shore of Lake Pinpa, which has dried up since 2016.
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Scientists published their findings in the journal of Historical biology. They identified the new species as Archaehierax sylvestris.
The bird is slightly smaller than a Sharp-tailed eagle (Aquila audax), Australia’s largest bird of prey, with a wingspan of about 15 centimeters, depending on Ellen Mather, PhD candidate at Flinders University and first author of the study.
“It would probably have been one of the bigger eagles of the time, as far as we know,” she said. The Guardian.
“We think it probably would have attacked most of the small to medium-sized birds and mammals that were also alive at that time, so things like the ancestors of modern opossums and koalas living in the forest,” Mather said.
This eagle had short wings and fairly long legs, which means he probably ambushed his prey in the woods.
In fact, the translation of his name, Archaehierax sylvestris, means “ancient forest hawk”, according to ABC News (Australia).
“It’s pretty common among forest eagles,” Mather told The Guardian. “It’s an adaptation to essentially have to fly in a more crowded space compared to eagles that live in more open spaces like meadows or woods.”
“We think it would have been an ambush hunter. So even though he’s not very fast, he would have been quite nimble, able to make quick turns and probably would have waited [on] a perch for prey to roam within striking distance.
The fossil beats Australia’s oldest known bird, the Pengana robertbolesi, who lived about 23 million years ago.
Walter Boles, avian paleontologist discovered and named Pengana robertbolesi, but did not participate in this study.
“We know Australia has a large number of bird of prey fossils, but very few have actually been officially published,” Boles said. told ABC. “This [study] is pleasing, due to the age and relative completeness of the skeleton, and the fact that it has been thoroughly analyzed and named. “
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