Academic journal article Science Scope

Eagle That Eyed Human as Prey?

Academic journal article Science Scope

Eagle That Eyed Human as Prey?

Article excerpt

Before humans colonized New Zealand about 750 years ago, the largest inhabitants of the islands were birds unlike those anywhere else in the world. Giant, flightless birds known as moa were the main plant-eaters, feeding both on the ground and in the branches of trees. The role of predator was filled by a giant, extinct raptor known as Haast's eagle (Harpagornis moorei).

Although the bones of Haast's eagle have been known for well over a century, the behavior of these giants has been a point of debate. Owing to their large size--these eagles weighed up to 40 lbs., larger than any modern eagle--some scientists believe they were scavengers rather than predators.

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The new study by Paul Scofield of the Canterbury Museum in New Zealand and Ken Ashwell of the University of New South Wales used computed axial tomography (CAT/CT) scans to reconstruct the size of the brain, eyes, ears and spinal cord of this ancient eagle. These data were compared to values from modern predator y and scavenging birds to determine the habits of the extinct eagle. …

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