Science

Researchers discover fossil of 'largest parrot ever' in New Zealand

Researchers discover fossil of 'largest parrot ever' in New Zealand”

The measurements make it double the size of a Kakapo, previously the world's largest known parrot, which also hails from New Zealand and is still extant today (although now classified as Critically Endangered).

Artistic illustration of the giant parrot with a New Zealand wren for comparison.

He said the parrot's weight meant there was a possibility it was flightless.

"The NZ mainland is larger and more ecologically complex than most islands and, lacking mammalian predators, predictably has produced the greatest diversity of giant avians anywhere", the researchers said in their paper. At about 3 feet, the massive bird would likely have stood almost as tall as the average American 4-year-old.

"Likewise there was a crocodile in the fauna, but one expects a parrot to be more clever than those and unlikely to be caught very often", Worthy added.

Discovered in Central Otago in New Zealand, the fossil suggests "Hercules" had a large beak that was able to crack most food sources. Estimated to have weighed about 7kg (1.1st), it would have been more than twice as heavy as the kākāpo, previously the largest known parrot.

"It was completely unexpected and quite novel", Worthy, the study's lead author, told National Geographic. "As soon as I had satisfied myself it was a parrot, then I clearly needed to persuade the world".

This handout picture released on August 7, 2019, by the Flinders University shows the drawing by Dr. Brian Choo featuring a giant-sized parrot that stood more than half the height of an average human and roamed the earth 19 million years ago.

Researchers compared the leg bones to other bird skeletons until a suit of characters unique to large and flightless parrots became evident. But that might not have been enough to satiate the giant parrot.

"New Zealand is well known for its giant birds", said Trevor Worthy, co-author of the study and a professor at Australia's Flinders University. Both were quickly driven to extinction when the first Maori settlers arrived in New Zealand and hunted Moa for food, with the last individuals of both species likely disappearing in the early 15th century.

Heracles likely won't be the final unforeseen fossil from the St. Bathans area, Worthy told AFP.

Scientists have been discovering huge prehistoric birds for years, however this one nonetheless shocked them.



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