Washington, Aug 19 : Researchers have reconstructed kills of a prehistoric predator bird called Andalgalornis, which they found to have a fighting strategy similar to that of boxer Mohammed Ali.
According to the scientists, the agile creature repeatedly attacked and retreated, landing well-targeted, hatchet-like jabs to take down its prey.
It couldn''t fly, but its unusually large, rigid skull-coupled with a hawk-like hooked beak and imposing size made them terrifying predators.
Shrouded in mystery for a long time, the predatory behaviour of these birds was recreated by a multinational team of scientists using CT scanning and advanced engineering methods.
"We need to figure out the ecological role that these amazing birds played if we really want to understand how the unusual ecosystems of South America evolved over the past 60 million years," said study lead author Federico Degrange.
"We found that Andalgalornis had turned these mobile joints into rigid beams. This guy had a strong skull, particularly in the fore-aft direction, despite having a curiously hollow beak," said Witmer, Professor of Paleontology and anatomy.
The team was able to simulate and compare the biomechanics of biting straight down (as in a killing bite), pulling back with its neck (as in dismembering prey) and shaking the skull from side to side (as in thrashing smaller animals or when dealing with larger struggling prey).
Colour images created by the program show cool-blue areas where stresses are low and white-hot areas where stresses get dangerously high.
"When shaking its head from side to side, its skull lights up like a Christmas tree. It really does not handle that kind of stress well at all," said Wroe of Université Paul Sabatier in Toulouse.
They also found that the bird''s weakness in biting hard was compensated by using its powerful neck muscles to drive its strong skull into prey like an axe.
The study was published this week in the online, open-access journal PLoS ONE. (ANI)