“Scaglia’s Magnificent Bird” lived in South America – now an exceptionally preserved fossil gives voice to the ancient terror bird.

A flightless “terror” bird four foot tall with a hooked beak stalked the Earth 3.5 million years ago, new research reveals

“Scaglia’s Magnificent Bird” lived in South America during the Cenozoic period from the end of the Cretaceous Period and the extinction of non-avian dinosaurs 65 million years ago to the present.

The Cenozoic is sometimes called the Age of Mammals because the largest land animals were mammals at that time.

Now an exceptionally preserved fossil gives voice to the ancient terror bird called Llallawavis scagliai – and it’s hearing was below average for living birds.

The fossil is the most complete terror bird ever discovered, with more than 90 per cent of the skeleton exquisitely preserved shedding light on the diversity of the group and how these giant extinct predators interacted with their environment.

The new specimen also revealed details of anatomy that rarely preserve in the fossil record, including the auditory region of the skull, voice box, complete trachea, bones for focussing the eye, and the complete palate.

Scary: They roamed the Earth armed with hooked beaks. Photo: www.mirror.co.uk/

Skull: Evidence of the bird that stalked the Earth 3.5 million years ago. Photo: www.mirror.co.uk/

This allowed palaeontologists to build up an unprecedented understanding of the sensory capabilities of these extinct predatory birds.

Dr Federico “Dino” Degrange of the Universidad Nacional de C rdoba, Argentina said: “The mean hearing estimated for this terror bird was below the average for living birds.

“This seems to indicate that Llallawavis may have had a narrow, low vocalisation frequency range, presumably used for intraspecific acoustic communication or prey detection.”

The study published in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology was the first to reconstruct the structures which indicate hearing sensitivity for any terror bird and may help explain the evolution, behaviour, and ecology of this group of fossil birds.

Terror birds, or phorusracids, were the predominant predators during the Cenozoic Age in South America and certainly one of the most striking groups that lived during that time.

Dr Claudia Tambussi added: “The discovery of this new species provides new insights for studying the anatomy and phylogeny of phorusrhacids and a better understanding of this group’s diversification.

The new species stood 4 feet tall and lived in Argentina approximately 3.5 million years ago in the Pliocene Epoch, towards the end of the reign of the group.

Dr Degrange said: “The discovery of this species reveals that terror birds were more diverse in the Pliocene than previously thought.

“It will allow us to review the hypothesis about the decline and extinction of this fascinating group of birds.”

Source: www.mirror.co.uk

Terrifying: The birds were 4ft tall. Photo: www.mirror.co.uk/