first_img Watch: Snowball the Dancing Cockatoo Has More Moves Than YouEndangered Baby Kakapo Parrot Gets World-First Brain Surgery Gonna shout it from the mountaintops: A star was born when palaeontologists discovered the world’s largest parrot, Hercules.Weighing in around 15 lbs, the 3-foot-tall bird has a massive beak capable of cracking most food sources (including other fowl).Its name—Heracles inexpectatus—reflects the New Zealand animal’s Herculean size and strength, as well as the unexpected nature of its discovery.“New Zealand is well known for its giant birds,” Flinders University Associate Professor Trevor Worthy said in a statement. “Not only moa [nine species of now-extinct flightless bird] dominated avifaunas, but giant geese and adzebills shared the forest floor, while a giant eagle ruled the skies.“But until now, no one has ever found an extinct giant parrot—anywhere,” he added.Main fossil leg bone of Hercules (above), with kakapo leg bones (below) (via Flinders University)The fossil—found near St. Bathans in Central Otago, New Zealand—is about the size of the giant “dodo” pigeon of the Mascarene Islands. And, more impressively, twice as big as the adorable (yet critically endangered) kakapo, previously the heaviest known parrot.Hercules is believed to hail from the Miocene era, some 19 million years ago, when it probably cohabitated with another 40 bird species.“It was likely a flightless forager who ate abundantly on fruit and seeds, but may have preyed on small animals that it could dig out of logs, or even snack on dead or dying moa—like kea still do with sheep,” Worthy explained.As the largest parrot ever, Hercules may well have dined on more than “conventional” foods like laurels and palms—perhaps even other parrots, according to Mike Archer, a professor at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) Sydney Palaeontology, Geobiology and Earth Archives (PANGEA) Research Center.“Its rarity in the deposit is something we might expect if it was feeding higher on the food chain,” he said, adding that parrots “in general are very resourceful birds in terms of culinary interests.”Graphic showing Hercules’ silhouette next to an average-height woman and common magpie (via Paul Scofield/Canterbury Museum)Birds have repeatedly evolved hulking species on islands: Flinders University pointed to a giant pigeon on Fiji, giant stork on Flores, giant ducks in Hawaii, giant megapodes in New Caledonia, and giant owls in the Caribbean.“We have been excavating these fossil deposits for 20 years, and each year reveals new birds and other animals,” Worthy said.“While Heracles is one of the most spectacular birds we have found,” he continued, “no doubt there are many more unexpected species yet to be discovered in this most interesting deposit.”Last month, researchers unveiled a 99-million-year-old bird with toes longer than its lower legs.The feathered creature, preserved in amber, likely used its hyper-elongated third toe to hook food out of tree trunks.More on Dinosaur Discovered After Laying ‘Misidentified’ in Vault for 30 YearsFossilized Primate Tooth Helps Fill Gap in Monkey EvolutionConstruction Workers Unearth Dinosaur Fossils in Denver Suburb Stay on targetlast_img

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