We all know that fossils and bones can help scientists work out what extinct creatures used to look like, but now researchers are claiming they can even tell you what they used to sound like! ‘Terror Birds’, or phorusrhacids, lived after the dinosaurs and died out about 3.5 million years ago, well after the supercontinent Pangaea (also called Pangea) had broken up. They could grow up to 3m tall and had incredibly powerful legs and large, hooked beaks that they used to kill their prey.
Unlike modern birds, they seemed to have lost the power of flight, possibly due to their large size.
Now, in South America, scientists have discovered a new species, and the best preserved example of a phorusrhacid skeleton ever found; it was about 90% complete and even included smaller bones in the bird’s ears and throat. With the help of some 3D computing technology, paleontologists were able to reconstruct the vocal and auditory mechanisms and, by comparing them to other animals, they are able to tell us how these scary creatures would have communicated.
This new phorusrhacid, Llallawavis scagliai, could hear noises much lower than the human ear can detect, and as such, would have had a voice deep enough to make those sounds. We can’t know what those sounds were, but we do know that they would have been too low for us to hear. It’s just as well they are extinct nowadays, because if one was hunting you, you’d never hear it coming!