Science Caturday: Ah Tawt I Taw a Terror Bird

i am not the mighty hunter i thought i was

Once upon a time, ten-foot-tall carnivorous “terror birds” roamed the earth. In a paper published this week in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, scientists revealed fascinating new details about their anatomy and hunting technique, based on studies of a nearly-complete fossil found in 2010.

Laura Geggel reports in LiveScience that the researchers, led by Federico Degrange, learned a great deal about the behavior and anatomy of terror birds by studying the skeleton of Llallawavis scagliai.

“Given its extraordinary condition, the fossil has helped researchers study the terror bird’s anatomy in detail. The specimen is the first known fossilized terror bird with a complete trachea and complete palate (the roof of the mouth). It even includes the intricate bones of the creature’s ears, eye sockets, brain box and skull, providing scientists with an unprecedented look at the flightless bird’s sensory capabilities.”

The researchers also discovered that the bird’s skull is more rigid than in other species, suggesting that Llallawavis scagliai may have killed by slamming its large beak up and down upon its prey.

Geggel’s article and the paper itself have many more fascinating details. But I think we’ll just leave it at that because we’re frightening the cat.

Science Caturday: Dinosaur Edition


Today we have a special Science Caturday to celebrate the publication of My Beloved Brontosaurus, a book by dinosaur expert, cat servant and friend of the Finch & Pea Brian Switek, aka @laelaps.

The Wall Street Journal says that you should “read Mr. Switek’s book to rekindle your love of all things dinosaur: the cheesy movies, the action figures, the many happy hours spent wandering through imaginary Jurassic jungles. But more than that, read it to remind yourself that the dinosaurs’ story is our story and that, as Mr. Switek writes, ‘extinction is the ultimate fate of all species. Nothing so majestically encapsulates these simple, powerful truths of nature quite like a dinosaur.’” We concur!

Brian will be appearing in several cities in the next few weeks to talk about the book – you can catch him this coming Monday, April 29, at Politics & Prose in Washington, DC. Some other upcoming “Brontotour” stops are listed here. If he’s not coming to your town, Brian is always happy to chat about his work on twitter.

In the meantime, enjoy these dinokittehs.



all photos via

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