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Re: What would Hitchcock have thought...?

I was talking about the possibility that Ice Age teratorns, or giant condor or other large raptor bird species of the Pleistocene, were capable of picking up a small human child, as was reported in the news item from South Africa that began this discussion. The report did not name the extinct species of raptor that hunted human ancestors 2 million years ago, but compared it to today's crowned eagle-hawk, which preys on monkeys. It had to be a raptor that coexisted with humans.

Argentavis magnificens was huge, over 5 ft tall weighing 170 pounds, etc. But it lived in the Late Miocene, never enountered alive or in fossil form by North American Indians, so it doesn't seem relevant to what I am suggesting: Simply this: it would only take a couple of rare instances of a giant bird carrying off a small child, as we now know happened in South Africa, for such a story to be recalled in oral folklore i North America.

On Jan 14, 2006, at 1:09 PM, Patrick Norton wrote:

Adrienne Mayor wrote:

But, compared to the California condor with a wingspan of 9 to 10 feet, and today's eagle with a wingspan of 7-8 feet, Ice Age Teratorns were heavy-bodied and had wingspans of 12 to nearly 17 feet.>

Campbell and Tonni (1980) estimate the wingspan of _Argentavis magnificens_ (a late Miocene teratorn) at 22 to 24 feet.

They apparently picked up prey with strong beaks, not talons like eagles and condors, which are mainly carrion eaters.>

Those same authors (1980, 1981, 1983) actually say that the overall mandibular structure of _A. magnificens_ and the other large teratorns was structually weak (highly kinetic) and that they were "functionally incapable" of killing or tearing apart large prey with their beaks. These birds were limited to hunting small prey (hare- sized or smaller) that could be dispatched more easily and swallowed whole.

I think teratorns could pick up a small child.>

The hindlimbs and feet of the very large teratorns were adapted for walking, not for grasping or holding prey.


Refs: Nature 33 (1940); Coleman and Clark 1999, 236-38, citing Ken Campbell; Feduccia 1986; and refs cited in Mayor, Fossil Legends, 367-68 notes 26-27, 374-75 notes 60-63, historical survey of reported avian abductions see Michel and Rickard, Living Wonders (Thames & Hudson 1982), 138-43.

On Jan 14, 2006, at 10:46 AM, Danvarner@aol.com wrote:

In a message dated 1/14/2006 1:18:45 PM Eastern Standard Time,
afmayor@aol.com writes:

<< This might help explain the traditional Native American  stories of
giant raptors that carried off folks to their nests, until  now
thought to be fanciful tales. >>

Well, before you get too "carried away" you may want to read this from
http://home.sou.edu/~rible/wildlife/index.htm :

<< Interesting notes: One of the more unusual things written about the
golden eagle, as is sometimes written about the bald eagle, is its alleged ability
to lift large prey off the ground and fly with it to their nest. They have
been reported to carry off calves and lambs (Bent 1937; Palmer 1988a), but
such prey would have to be unusually small individuals. An experiment performed
with one golden eagle weighing 11 pounds found that it could not lift a 5¼
pound weight attached to its feet off of the ground (Arnold 1954). This is a far
cry from the 10 to 11 pound capacity that one researcher had estimated
(Gilbert 1926). It is thought that the actual weight-carrying capacity is about
21% of the eagle's own weight (Huey 1962). Since golden eagles, males and
females combined, can weigh between six to 13 pounds this would put their
weight-carrying capacity at between one and three pounds. Another researcher thought
that the golden eagle might be able to carry a seven pound jackrabbit a
short distance, but that most large prey would have to be "dismantled" before
being carried aloft (Palmer 1988a). >>