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Scientists reveal Antarctica's top predator existed 50 million years ago

Scientists reveal Antarctica's top predator existed 50 million years ago The main predator of Antarctica lived over 50 million years ago (Collage: RBC-Ukraine)
Author: Daria Shekina

Who was the main predator of Antarctica over 50 million years ago is an interesting question. Despite the immediate thoughts of penguins, sea elephants, seals, or toothed whales, this is far from the truth.

RBC-Ukraine tells who scientists consider the main predator of Antarctica and what is known about this ancient creature.

The following sources were used in preparing the material: Palaeontologia Electronica, Raptor Chatter YouTube channel, Wikipedia.

Who was named the main predator of Antarctica

50 million years ago, the climate of Antarctica could have been significantly different from today. The continent was much warmer and could have been home to ancient predatory birds.

"In Antarctic biomes, we have not encountered large predators before. Diurnal birds of prey and small insectivores were known, but no large predatory creatures were ever discovered," shared Dr. Acosta Hospitaleche from Palaeontologia Electronica.

During excavations on the small Seymour Island off the east coast of the Trinity Peninsula in the northern part of the Antarctic Peninsula, scientists made an unexpected discovery.

It's about two large claws about 8 centimeters long. Researchers said they could belong to a large flightless predator, dubbed the "terror bird."

Scientists reveal Antarctica's top predator existed 50 million years ago

Found claws on Seymour Island (infographic:

What is known about the "terror bird"

The term "terror bird" is usually applied to flightless birds of the extinct family Phorusrhacidae, which were considered some of the largest top predators in South America during the Cenozoic era.

However, the absence of the rest of the skeleton complicates the exact classification.

According to recent studies by scientists, the bird found in Antarctica could have been about 2 meters tall and weighed about 100 kilograms. This makes it the dominant predator of its time.

It is believed that these birds mainly fed on small to medium-sized vertebrates, using their long claws and sharp beaks for hunting - thus fulfilling the role of top predators on the continent.

Scientists reveal Antarctica's top predator existed 50 million years agoSuch a look could have the "terror bird" (illustration:

Why this discovery is important

According to scientists, this discovery is of great importance for understanding the ecosystem of Antarctica during the Eocene period - the middle geological epoch of the Paleogene period, which began about 56 million years ago and ended about 33.9 million years ago.

Thanks to new findings, researchers hope to uncover more details about these terrifying birds and the environment in which they lived.

"The Antarctic islands undergo significant erosion, unveiling new fossils annually. The continuous exposure of fossils due to erosion presents a unique opportunity for us to uncover more about the ancient ecosystems of Antarctica," said Hospitaleche.