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Ancient raptors likely feasted on early man, study suggests

ts more often than chance alone would predict."

The finding suggests that birds of this size were quite capable of successfully attacking a young hominid.

Archaeologists think that the Taung toddler weighed around 26 pounds (12 kg). McGraw says that scientists think that a raptor about the same size as a modern-day African crowned eagle may have killed the young hominid.

"Many people thought that an eagle of this size wouldn't have enough strength to lift a primate the size of the Taung child," McGraw said. "That's a non-issue, because eagles don't hunt and process their kills that way. They typically dismember their prey very quickly, and then take pieces of the carcass back to the nest."

After identifying the bones, the researchers began to assess actual damage patterns on the bones.

The collection consisted mostly of skulls and the long bones of the hind limbs (namely the femur, or thigh bone, and tibia, a bone in the lower leg.) Smaller, more fragile bones are often destroyed during the attack, and can also rapidly decay in a rainforest environment.

Monkey skulls, shoulder blades and pelvic girdles showed the greatest amount of damage. Most of the skulls were fractured or punctured, presumably from the force applied by the grip of an eagle's talons. There were fractures in the eye sockets and at the base of most of the skulls, either from beaks or talons that had punctured the bone in order to retrieve soft tissue.

There were noticeable punctures and scrapes across nearly every shoulder blade in the sample. The ends of many of the long hind limb bones had been removed, apparently to get to the marrow inside.

The puncture marks on some of the monkey skulls are very similar to those found on the skull of the Taung child, McGraw said.

"This fossil is probably the most written-about, studied and handled hominid skull ever," he said. "But almost no one had really bothered to
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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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