Wed, 29 Nov 2023

CANBERRA, Nov. 17 (Xinhua) -- Researchers have discovered a new species of prehistoric eagle endemic to Australia and shed new light on the country's only known vulture.

In a study published on Friday, a team from Flinders University found that Australia's only vulture -- the Cryptogyps lacertosus -- was more primitive than previously thought, lacking the soaring ability of current vultures and was still alive 60,000 years ago.

While the vulture weighed up to six kg, the researchers concluded that a new species of eagle described for the first time in the study -- the Dynatoaetus pachyosteus -- grew up to 12 kg.

Living between 500,000 and 200,000 years ago, the pachyosteus was second in size to the Dynatoaetus gaffae, which was described in a study published by Flinders University in March and was the largest eagle that ever lived on the Australian continent.

Fossil bones from both eagle species were discovered at the World Heritage-listed Naracoorte Caves more than 300 km southeast of Adelaide.

Ellen Mather, a paleontologist from Flinders University, led the teams that discovered both species and said in a media release that the two eagles likely competed for food across prehistoric southern Australia.

"This new eagle species, Dynatoaetus pachyosteus, would have been similar in wingspan to a wedge-tailed eagle, now Australia's largest living eagle of prey, but its bones seem much more robust -- especially its leg bones, suggesting it was even more powerful and heavily built," she said.

The Dynatoaetus genus was endemic to Australia, meaning it was not found anywhere else, but Mather said analysis suggested the species could be related to the crested serpent eagle, which can be found in the tropical jungles of southeast Asia and New Guinea, and Philippine eagle.

To commemorate the discovery of the eagle species, an artwork depicting their likeness and that of the Cryptogyps lacertosus will be unveiled at the Naracoorte Caves later in November.

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