Flightless New Zealand Bird 4 Letters
Flightless New Zealand Bird 4 Letters – The giant parrot Heracles inexpectatus lived 16 to 19 million years ago in what is now New Zealand. Researchers estimate that this giant parrot would have weighed more than 15 pounds. Little wrens called Kuiornis which were also native to New Zealand at the time sat at the parrot’s feet.
More than 16 million years ago in what is now New Zealand, a giant bird died and sank to the bottom of a lake. Preserved in layers of gray-blue sand and clay, the bones of this behemoth have since been unearthed, revealing what is now the largest parrot known to science.
Flightless New Zealand Bird 4 Letters
Of the 350 species of parrots alive today, the heaviest is the kakapo, a flightless bird native to New Zealand. But the extinct parrot, named Heracles inexpectatus, breaks the kakapo record: Described from fossilized leg bones, the bird would have weighed 15 pounds and stood about three feet tall.
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Michael Archer, a paleontologist at the University of New South Wales in Australia, who is part of the team describing the find today in the journal Biology Letters, says this is high enough to “make your stomach hurt.” .
Alison Boyer, an ecologist at the University of Tennessee, said: “[The kakapo] is a rare species, so it’s amazing to think that it was perhaps part of a larger group of non-robbing parrots that lived.” in New Zealand. participate in the study.
Researchers unearthed the fossils of the giant bird in 2008 in St Bathans, a former mining town perched on top of a vanished lake. The site has preserved rich fossil deposits from the early Miocene era, including plants, crocodiles, bats, and dozens of bird species.
“Most of the specimens from the St. Bathans basin—more than 6,000 identifiable bird bones—are very small,” said study leader Trevor Worthy, a paleontologist at Flinders University in Australia.
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That is why the large tibiotarsi, or drumsticks, of this bird stood out. For the next 10 years, the bones sat on a shelf with other supposed eagle bones from the St. Bathans site, until a graduate student realized they were not actually from ancient eagles.
“It was completely unexpected and quite novel,” Worthy says. “Once I convinced myself it was a parrot, then obviously I convinced the world.”
Worthy and his team compared the leg bones to specimens and online images from various museums to narrow down the list of potential species. Psittaciformes, the order that includes parrots and cockatoos, rises to the top.
“Based on what they were able to show here, it’s convincing,” Boyer said. “Jako has a very different morphology.”
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The research team then estimated the bird’s size based on the leg bone circumference. The equations do not take into account the particular position that a parrot has compared to birds in other families, said Helen James, Curator of Birds at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History who was not on the team. But even if the estimates are not perfect, it is agreed that this bird would be exceptionally large for a parrot.
“It blows my mind,” said Andrew Digby, a conservation biologist with the New Zealand Department of Conservation who was not involved in the study. Digby works to protect the kakapo, which has been teetering on the edge of extinction since the early 1900s.
The critically endangered kakapo provides some clues as to what the giant parrot may have eaten and how it may have moved. Only 189 kakapo live in the wild today, down from 51 birds in 1995.
“Whenever someone sees a kakapo for the first time, the first thing they almost always say is, Wow, it’s bigger than I thought it was going to be,” Digby says. And kakapo “can be aggressive, if they want. My eyes open a little when I think about one twice the size. It could be quite terrible.”
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“When you think about how smart parrots are, it’s scary,” added study co-author Suzanne Hand, a paleontologist at the University of New South Wales.
With only two leg bones in hand, many details of this bird’s behavior remain unknown. The heft and other small clues on the tips of the bones suggest that the giant parrot could not climb or fly—Heracles most likely stayed on the forest floor.
It’s possible the large parrot survived on the only vegetation it could reach, Digby said. Moa, giant birds that lived on land that disappeared soon after humans arrived in New Zealand, were herbivores. And the pollen found in the clay layer around the fossils shows that the parrot lived in a calm, subtropical climate. With more than 60 types of tropical fruit trees to choose from, Heracles would have an abundance of options, Worthy says.
Still, getting enough calories from just leaves and fruit may have been difficult for such a large bird, and it may need to supplement its diet, Hand said. Eating meat is not typical for parrots, but the birds have been known to be opportunistic.
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Kea, a smaller species of parrot native to New Zealand, has learned to claw pieces of fat from sheep’s backs. Worthy says, they even drag seabird chicks—“piggy pigs”—out of their burrows. The added nutrition gives these parrots a leg up during the cold New Zealand winters. With no large carnivorous mammals sharing resources on the island, the Heracles might as well have flown into this empty nest.
If further digging eventually reveals the bird’s beak, looking at its shape might provide more clues. But Archer admits that some differences exist between the beaks of today’s omnivorous and herbivorous parrots, so paleontologists will need to keep their eyes open for other evidence.
“Information about what it actually did [eat] might come from other parts of the deposit rather than the bird itself,” Archer says.
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What paleontologists can say for sure is that the giant parrot fits into the larger story of New Zealand’s bird life. The island has long been disconnected from other land, so no large mammals could reach it. Instead, the birds had a strong foot, and were able to diversify into a wide range of sizes and specialties.
“We never imagined we would find a parrot of this size,” said study co-author Paul Scofield, senior curator at the Canterbury Museum in New Zealand. But given New Zealand’s history of gigantism – including moa, rays, and eagles – the find is not completely unexpected.
“That’s why this discovery of a giant parrot is exciting—it’s both predictable and surprising,” Christopher Witt, director of the University of New Mexico’s Southwestern Biology Museum, wrote in an email.
“Paleontology is all about serendipity,” Worthy adds. “You just never know, and that’s what’s exciting about the game.”
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Takahē was hunted extensively by Maori but was not named and described by Europeans until 1847, and th only from fossil bones. In 1850 a live bird was captured, and three more collected in the 19th sign. After another bird was captured in 1898, and no more were found, the species was presumed extinct. Fifty years later, however, after a carefully planned search, the South Island takahē was dramatically rediscovered in 1948 by Geoffrey Orbell in an isolated valley in the South Island’s Murchison Mountains. The species is currently managed by the New Zealand Department of Conservation, whose Takahē Recovery Program maintains populations on several offshore islands as well as the Takahē Valley. It has now been reintroduced to a second mainland site in Kahurangi National Park. Although South Island takahē are still a threatened species, their NZTCS status was downgraded in 2016 from Nationally Critical to Nationally Vulnerable.
The first illustration of the South Island takahē comes from Gideon and Walter Mantell’s notice of the discovery in 1850.
Anatomist Richard Ow’s fossil bird bones were found in 1847 in South Taranaki on the North Island by collector Walter Mantell, and in 1848 he coined the genus Notornis (“southern bird”) for them, naming the new species Notornis mantelli.
Two years later, a group of seals in Tamatea / Dusky Sound, Fiordland, encountered a large bird that they chased with their dogs. “It runs at high speed, and