Owl age 55 million years attributed to the manner of the hunting hawk

Paleontologists have discovered a new species of fossil owls aged about 55 million years ago. He was named Primoptynx poliotauros. Judging by the structure of the claws, this bird is hunted more like a hawk or an eagle than like modern owls. The finding indicates that at the dawn of their evolution the owls had reached high diversity and occupied a number of ecological niches. Detailed description of a new species set out in an article for journal Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.

Evolution of owls (Strigiformes) began at least 60 million years ago. However, the early representatives of this order little is known. Although paleontologists have described a few species of owls that lived in the early Cenozoic, most of them known only from a few skeletal fragments. It is not possible to draw conclusions about their anatomy and way of life.

In search of answers to questions about the first stages of the evolution of owls, a team of researchers led by Gerald Mayr (Mayr Gerald) from the Senckenberg Museum drew attention to the remains of a large bird aged about 55 million years. They were found in the formation of vilvud in the territory of Wyoming 30 years ago, but since then have no formal description.

The analysis showed that the fossil bird was an owl. Unlike other owls the early Cenozoic, her skeleton was relatively complete: although the skull up to the present day is not reached, the bones of the limbs and the torso partly preserved quite well.

Based on the study of the remnants of paleontologists has described a new species, which was named Primoptynx poliotauros. By comparing its skeleton with skeletons of modern species, they concluded that the ancient bird weighed one to two kilograms, and at length reached 60 cm. This roughly corresponds to the dimensions of the male snowy owl (Bubo scandiacus).

Special interest scientists drew the limbs of P. poliotauros. Modern owls the length of the claws on all fingers about the same, however, the ancient species had enlarged claws on hind and second fingers. The same feature is characteristic for the birds of prey from the order istrebovanii (Accipitriformes). This may indicate that the hunting habits of P. poliotauros reminded me of a hawk or eagle than usual for us owls.

According to paleontologists, P. poliotauros was a hunter on mammals of medium size. However, at the same time in North America there were other species of owls, for example, a tiny Eostrix gulottai with a body length of about 12 inches. Thus, this group of birds in the early Eocene had become quite diverse and cover the whole range of ecologically niches. Was there early Cenozoic night owls remains unknown.

Compared to the first stages of its evolution, modern owls have become less diverse. One hypothesis explains the extinction of species type P. poliotauros competition with istrebovanii birds, the rapid evolution which began in the late Eocene — early Oligocene. May they also forced the owls to become the go to night lifestyle.

In the Pacific Islands of Tonga have discovered the remains of a half-meter of a dove. A new species, dubbed Tongoenas burleyi, lived in trees and ate fruit. Ruined his appearance on the Islands people about 2850 years ago.

Sergey Knee High

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