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Re: Phorusrhacids killing large mammals in National Geographic Channel

Augusto Haro <augustoharo@gmail.com> wrote:

> Seriemas do not perform long flights, however. They are
> said to be
> helped climbing by the laterally compressed claws, 

I've heard this before, but I'm not sure what is meant by "climbing" in the 
context of seriemas (Cariamidae).  If seriemas do use their claws to help climb 
trees, how exactly are they doing it?  And what exactly are they climbing on 
(or up)?  Branches?  Inclined tree trunks?  I'm not picking on you, Augusto.  
:-)  I just find the idea of climbing seriemas very interesting, and would like 
more information.

I've also read that the enlarged, curved inner claw (second toe) of the seriema 
is also used as a climbing aid.  Again, the source did not describe exactly 
*how* these sickle-claws helped in climbing.

> which
> are also
> present in Phorusrhacids. So perhaps they were not very
> different to
> the smaller phorusrhacids in habits.

Seriemas are predominantly terrestrial, and hunt small vertebrates.  (They also 
eat insects and some plants).  Seriemas can nest and roost in trees, although 
the foot isn't adapted for perching.  However, the idea that psilopterids could 
fly was rejected by Alvarenga and HÃfling (2003), who argued that the ulna was 
far too short.

Alvarenga, H.M.F. and HÃfling, E. (2003). Systematic Revision of the 
Phorusrhacidae (Aves: Ralliformes). PapÃis Avulsos de Zoologia 43: 55â91. 

David Marjanovic wrote:

> Most, if not all, of the tale of the nasty bacteria in *Varanus 
> komodoensis* (that's right: ko-mo-do-en-sis) spittle is demonstrably 
> false. The symptoms of being bitten don't fit an infection, but they
> fit snake venoms, and indeed the beast produces a pretty serious venom.
> Was all over the science news a year or three ago.

The idea that the Komodo dragon (ora) delivers a load of pathogenic bacteria in 
its saliva while biting, and then waits for the prey to slowly die of sepsis, 
is entirely anecdotal.  These guys were venomous.  The definitive study 
appeared earlier this year...

Fry et al. (2009). A 
_Varanus komodoensis_ (Komodo Dragon) and the extinct giant _Varanus_ 
(_Megalania_) priscus.  Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 106: 8969-8974.