Our prehistoric history is weird. Dinosaurs were terrifyingly beautiful beasts. One of our ancient ape ancestors was ten feet tall and looked like Bigfoot. The ancient, shark-like creature Helicoprion had a spiraled, saw-like jaw that is pure nightmare fuel. All in all, evolution and its history are pretty bizarre. Now, scientists are adding another weird entry into the list: a massive parrot the size of a human child.
A curious avian fossil was found near St. Bathans in Central Otago, New Zealand. According to Flinders University, researchers first thought the fossil belonged to a goose or giant eagle from the island. Only after further investigation did they discover the bones were a new species entirely. Named after its unexpected discovery and its large, mythical stature, the Heracles inexpectatus is the largest extinct parrot ever. The bird is about the same size as another extinct bird—the dodo—and twice as large as the previous largest parrot, the kakapo. In other terms, it’s the size of a human child, which is both awesome and terrifying.
Meet Heracles the ‘squawkzilla’: The bird, which is officially known as Heracles inexpectatus, was dug up at a famous fossil site in Central Otago, New Zealand, known as St Bathans. https://t.co/1uibloP4XG pic.twitter.com/lqwdyY4v5H
— RushReads (@RushReads) August 7, 2019
Even though this specific discovery alone is remarkable, scientists are hoping to find other undiscovered species in the area. Scientists estimate that 40 other bird species might have lived alongside Heracles inexpectatus millions of years ago. Discoveries like Heracles are providing scientists with insight into what kind of animals roamed the earth after the dinosaurs.
Based on the fossils, we know that Heracles was probably a flightless bird. The parrot most likely foraged the island floor, eating fruits and seeds. It also probably ate small animals, much as its relatives, the keas do (they eat sheep). Regardless of what the Heracles ate, the bird’s large beak made it fairly easy for it to eat anything it found.
At this rate, we wouldn’t be surprised if Big Bird’s ancient ancestor is found in the Outback.
Featured Image: PBS