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Re: What really happened 65 Ma ago (not a joke)
John Bois wrote:
> Firstly, almost all birds did die out.
Unknown...Just the facts, Sir.
Well, the "facts" appear to back up David... The Neornithes is the only
bird clade that we know survived into the Cenozoic. Yet, there many other
bird clades in the late Cretaceous (including enantiornithines); these did
not survive. From a phylogenetic perspective, almost all birds did die out
at the end of the Cretaceous.
Ron Orenstein wrote:
Well, there are many oceanic islands with endemic hawks that probably lack
native predators but have not become giants (eg Hawaii, Fiji). The
difference in NZ (as I see it) was the presence of large, heavy-bodied
prey, coupled perhaps with climate (I say the latter because, for example,
there seem to be no giant birds of prey known from places like, say, New
Caledonia, which also featured at least one large flightless bird).
Cuba had a giant bird of prey, which I believe was flightless: the mega-owl
_Ornimegalonyx_. I wonder if it was nocturnal?
There's also the roc of Madagascar, a giant predatory bird capable of
picking up an elephant with its talons. Says Marco Polo:
"According to the report of those who have seen them... they are just like
eagles but of the most colossal size.... They are so huge and bulky that one
of them can pounce on an elephant and carry it up to a great height in the
air. Then it lets go, so that the elephant drops to earth and is smashed to
a pulp. Whereupon the gryphon bird perches on the carcass and feeds at its
ease. They add that they have a wingspan of thirty paces and their
wingfeathers are twelve paces long and of a thickness proportionate to their
length.... I should explain that the islanders call them rukhs and know them
by no other name."
Of course, the roc (rukh) is mythical, but no doubt inspired by _Aepyornis_
and its eggs. The elephant-grabbing abilities of the roc might be why
_Aepyornis_ is commonly known as the "elephant bird", and not due to its
impressive size. _Aepyornis_ (and _Mullerornis_ too) were herbivores.
AFAIK, the largest flying predator in Madagascar is the endangered
Madagascar fish-eagle (_Haliaeetus vociferoides_), which has a wingspan of