All these years, scientists believed that kakapo was the largest known parrot. However, the newly discovered fossil reveals that Heracles weighed about 7kg (1.1st), twice as heavy as the kakapo.
In a truly remarkable discovery, fossils of the world's largest extinct parrot have just been uncovered in Central Otago, New Zealand. All these years, scientists believed that kakapo was the largest known parrot. However, the new species called Heracles Inexpectatus is believed to have weighed about 7kg (1.1st) which is more than twice as heavy as the kakapo.
According to the CNN report, the world's largest parrot lived in New Zealand around 19 million years ago and used its massive beak to crack open food. Heracles was reportedly a supersize parrot that stood over 3 feet tall and its fossils were found near St. Bathans in Central Otago, New Zealand. And interestingly, it is the same place where bird fossils from the Miocene period, ranging between 5.3 and 23 million years ago, had also been earlier found.
"New Zealand is well known for its giant birds," Trevor Worthy, study author, and Flinders University associate professor told CNN. "Not only moa dominated avifaunas, but giant geese and adzebills shared the forest floor, while a giant eagle ruled the skies. But until now, no one has ever found an extinct giant parrot - anywhere." The research was published in the journal Biology Letters.
New Zealand was known to be the home of many huge birds such as moa, geese, cranes, eagles. And the other nearby islands like Fiji were home to giant pigeons. But this is the first-ever giant parrot to be discovered anywhere in the world.
"Heracles, as the largest parrot ever, no doubt with a massive parrot beak that could crack wide open anything it fancied, may well have dined on more than conventional parrot foods, perhaps even other parrots," said Mike Archer, study author and professor from the University of New South Wales' Palaeontology, Geobiology and Earth Archives Research Centre.
"Its rarity in the deposit is something we might expect if it was feeding higher up in the food chain. New Zealand keas, for example, have even developed a taste for sheep since these were introduced by European settlers in 1773," he added.
Was no one going to tell me that there was a giant flightless parrot in New Zealand called a Kakapo?? pic.twitter.com/PML5hFHgad— Mary Williams (@will_i_am_mary) August 6, 2019
Due to a lack of predators, more often than not, it is New Zealand that has housed a large number of supersized species. According to the report, Heracles used to live in a diverse subtropical forest where many species of laurels and palms grew with podocarp trees.
"Undoubtedly, these provided a rich harvest of fruit important in the diet of Heracles and the parrots and pigeons it lived with. But on the forest floor Heracles competed with adzebills and the forerunners of moa," Suzanne Hand, study author, and professor at the University of New South Wales Sydney told the publication.
Paul Scofield, study author and senior curator at the Canterbury Museum in Christchurch, New Zealand also revealed that "the St Bathans fauna provides the only insight into the terrestrial birds and other animals that lived in New Zealand since dinosaurs roamed the land more than 66 million years ago. This was a very different place with a fauna very unlike that which survived into recent times."