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Ancient raptors likely feasted on early man, study suggests

chultz, of the University of Liverpool, collected most of the bones for the study.

The best way to learn about an eagle's prey is to gather the remains that are in or near the raptor's nest, says McGraw.

"Eagles are ambush predators they go in for the kill quickly," said McGraw, who has spent much of the last 15 years studying primates in the Tai rainforest, which is in southwestern Ivory Coast .

"So the chance of actually seeing an eagle attack a monkey is extremely slim," he continued. "Yet raptors are kind enough to leave all the bones around afterwards. That means we can work backwards and construct a prey profile based on what's left over."

Over the course of three years the researchers collected some 1,200 animal bones discarded from 16 African crowned eagle nests. Slightly more than half of the bones (669) belonged to primates. The rest of the bones were from other, non-primate animals that the eagles preyed upon.

Most of the bones in the collection belonged to smaller monkey species, which weigh anywhere from 2.5 to 11.5 pounds as adults. But a third of the monkeys whose bones were part of the sample set would weigh anywhere from 13.5 to 24 pounds when alive. The majority of these bones were from mangabeys, the largest monkey in the Tai forest.

McGraw admitted that this finding surprised him. Mangabeys live primarily on the ground all of the other monkey species live in the canopy of the rainforest. It makes sense that eagles would zero in on monkeys in trees, as these primates are presumably easier to spot and attack. Also, mangabey populations aren't as dense as other monkey species in the Tai rainforest.

"It appears that the crowned hawk eagle specifically targets these large, relatively rare monkeys," McGraw said. "When we consider the density of the average mangabey population, the odds of an eagle encountering one of these monkeys should be small. But these mangabeys are turning up in nes
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Contact: W. Scott McGraw
McGraw.43@osu.edu
614-688-3794
Ohio State University
29-Aug-2006


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