(illustration) Marcos Cenizo/Museo de La Plata; (inset) Ohio University

ScienceShot: Bantamweight 'Terror Bird' Jabbed Like a Boxer

Meet Andalgalornis, and be glad it's from a distance. Part of a group called phorusrhacids, or "terror birds," the beast inhabited Argentina about 6 million years ago. Flightless and weighing about 40 kilograms, it stood approximately 1.4 meters tall, or about the size of a modern day emu. But Andalgalornis also sported a raptor-like hooked beak attached to a skull much larger than a human's and far outweighing that of a bald eagle (photo). Reporting online today in PLoS ONE, researchers say computer analyses of the fossilized skull suggest that the creature engaged in predatory behavior unlike any other bird's. Using its foot speed to run down a victim, Analgalornis would repeatedly jab at the animal, utilizing its sharp beak like a tomahawk. Overall, the researchers said, the bird's attacks resembled a boxer's quick punches--except in this case the glove was razor-sharp.

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Posted in Plants & Animals, Paleontology, Evolution