Feeds

NZ scientists identify giant, man-eating eagle

Legendary Te Hokioi really existed

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup

Scientists appear to have confimed that a legendary man-eating flying beast which terrorised New Zealand's Maori actually existed, the Independent reports.

Maori lore tells of the Te Hokioi - a "huge black-and-white predator with a red crest and yellow-green tinged wingtips" - and named after its cry, as locals explained to early NZ governor Sir George Gray.

Maori oral tradition maintains that a Te Hokioi once challenged a hawk to a race to the heavens, a contest which ended with the hawk defeated by clouds and wind, while the Te Hokioi disappeared into the stratosphere.

Researchers now believe the Te Hokioi was indeed a formidable animal, none other than Haast's eagle (Harpagornis moorei), the remains of which were first discovered in the 1870s by Sir Julius von Haast.

Intitial studies of the animal's skull indicated that the 18kg, three metre wingspan bird was a vulture-style scavenger, "because its bill was similar to a vulture's with hoods over its nostrils to stop flesh blocking its air passages as it rooted around inside carcasses".

However, teams from Canterbury Museum in Christchurch and the University of New South Wales in Australia subjected the Te Hokioi's skeleton to re-examination using CAT scans and other advanced techniques to reveal it "had a strong enough pelvis to support a killing blow as it dived at speeds of up to 80km/h".

This structural strength, coupled to talons the size of a tiger's claws, mean the Te Hokioi was more than capable of striking fear into the Maori.

Paul Scofield, the curator of vertebrate zoology at the Canterbury Museum, explained: "It was certainly capable of swooping down and taking a child. They had the ability to not only strike with their talons but to close the talons and put them through quite solid objects such as a pelvis. It was designed as a killing machine."

Haast's eagle attacking moa. Art: John Megahan

The Te Hokioi's most likely prey, though, was the flightless moa (see pic above, courtesy of PLoS Biology). Scofield explained: "In some fossil sites, moa bones have been found with signs of eagle predation."

Ultimately, it was probably the Te Hokioi's diet which proved its downfall. There were probably no more than 1,000 breeding pairs at any one time, and its decline was precipitated by the arrival of man in NZ, 1,000 years ago.

Humans hunted the moa into extinction, and the Te Hokioi disappeared from the skies 500 years ago.

The researchers' finding are reported in The Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology. ®

Bootnote

PLoS Biology has more background on the evolution of the Haast's eagle here.

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Boffins attempt to prove the UNIVERSE IS JUST A HOLOGRAM
Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?
Our LOHAN spaceplane ballocket Kickstarter climbs through £8000
Through 25 per cent but more is needed: Get your UNIQUE rewards!
Software bug caught Galileo sats in landslide, no escape from reality
Life had just begun, code error means Russia's gone and thrown it all away
LOHAN tunes into ultra long range radio
And verily, Vultures shall speak status unto distant receivers
SpaceX prototype rocket EXPLODES over Texas. 'Tricky' biz, says Elon Musk
No injuries or near injuries. Flight stayed in designated area
Galileo, Galileo! Galileo, Galileo! Galileo fit to go. Magnifico
I'm just a poor boy, nobody loves me. But at least I can find my way with ESA GPS by 2017
EOS, Lockheed to track space junk from Oz
WA facility gets laser-eyes out of the fog
prev story

Whitepapers

Gartner critical capabilities for enterprise endpoint backup
Learn why inSync received the highest overall rating from Druva and is the top choice for the mobile workforce.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Rethinking backup and recovery in the modern data center
Combining intelligence, operational analytics, and automation to enable efficient, data-driven IT organizations using the HP ABR approach.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.