A new species of extinct giant parrot has been discovered in New Zealand.
This is both the world’s largest parrot and the first species of extinct giant parrot to be discovered anywhere ever.
Standing at an estimated 1 meter (3.3 feet) tall, Heracles inexpectatus stood at nearly twice the height of New Zealand’s iconic kakapo – the previously largest known, and famously fattest, parrot.
Named after the Greek hero Heracles for its size and strength and its unexpected discovery, the researchers say H. inexpectatus had a giant beak that could crack open almost anything it fancied. It also came in at a hefty 7 kilograms (15 pounds).
Heracles has been dated to around 19 million years old, found in St Bathans in Central Otago, an area in New Zealand well known for its Miocene fossil birds and animals and for its strange Moeraki Boulders.
New Zealand is no stranger to extinct giant birds
Once upon a time, it housed nine species of moa, the largest of which stood at 3.6 meters (12 feet), and a penguin taller than a human. Islands often create evolutionary novelties in the form of large, usually flightless birds, i.e., the dodo of Mauritius, the elephant birds of Madagascar, the giant pigeon solitaire of Rodrigues Island, and the giant ducks of Australia.
However, no one has ever found a species of giant parrot before.
This fossil not only represents a new genus, but reveals another striking example of evolutionary island gigantism in birds. And it may have even dined on other parrots:
“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 Professor Mike Archer from the University of South Wales.
Well who was eating these giant birds?