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Fossil reveals terror bird’s power

Beak strong enough for ancient South American predator to hatchet its prey

By
4:00pm, April 9, 2015

Terror birds, such as the newly identified Llallawavis scagliai (illustrated here), were South America’s top predators millions of years ago.

With a swift hatchet of its beak, the terror bird Llallawavis scagliai could have whomped its prey, a new fossil find confirms.

Terror birds were one of South America’s top predators from about 50 million to roughly 1.8 million years ago. Researchers from Argentina have discovered a nearly complete skeleton of a new species of terror bird in a cliff face close to Chapadmalal. The researchers call the bird Llallawavis scagliai —Scaglia’s magnificent bird — in honor of naturalist Galileo Juan Scaglia, the grandfather of one of the researchers. They describe the fossil in the March Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.

Included in the skeleton is a tiny bone that strengthened the connection between the bird’s beak and skull. It is the first time scientists have found this bone in a terror bird fossil, providing direct evidence

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