An undated handout photo shows lead author Dr Ellen Mather holding the femur of a wedge-tailed eagle (left) and Dynatoaetus gaffae (right) for comparison. EFE/HANDOUT/Tania Bawden

Bones found in South Australia belong to huge eagle that hunted kangaroos

Sydney, Australia, Mar 16 (EFE).- The remains of a raptor discovered in South Australia are that of a giant extinct eagle with a three-meter wingspan and talons large enough to hunt kangaroos, an academic report said Thursday.

A handout graphic shows a comparison of the footbone of the dynatoaetus gaffae and wedge-tailed eagle, with estimated silhouettes of the animals. EFE/HANDOUT/Ellen Mather

Flinders University fossil hunters pieced together its story after new research of fossil cave remains found in South Australia’s Mairs Cave in the Flinders Ranges connected to other bones previously found at locations spanning from the Lake Eyre Basin in central Australia to the Wellington Cave complex in central New South Wales.

An undated handout photo shows scientists descending the 17m drop that at the entrance to Mairs Cave, Flinders Ranges, Australia. EFE/HANDOUT/Aaron Camen

The eagle existed until around 50,000 years ago.

An undated handout photo shows scientists working to recover bones from between the rocky floor in Mairs Cave, Flinders Ranges, Australia. EFE/HANDOUT/Aaron Camen

“It had giant talons, spreading up to 30 centimeters, which easily would have been able to dispatch a juvenile giant kangaroo, large flightless bird or other species of lost megafauna from that era,” said paleo-ornithologist Associate Professor Trevor Worthy in a statement.

The New Zealander collaborated on an expedition to the Flinders Ranges organized by Flinders University paleontology researcher Dr Ellen Mather in 2001.

“We were very excited to find many more bones from much of the skeleton to create a better picture and description of these magnificent long-lost giant extinct birds,” said Mather.

The bird was “humongous,” Worthy said.

“Larger than any other eagle from other continents, and almost as large as the world’s largest eagles once found on the islands of New Zealand and Cuba, including the whopping extinct thirteen kilogram Haast’s eagle of New Zealand,” Worthy said.

The eagle, which coexisted with still-living species such as the wedge-tailed eagle, was closely related to the Old World vultures of Africa and Asia and to the critically endangered monkey-eating Philippine eagle.

The bird was named in honor of Victorian paleontologist Priscilla Gaff who first described some of these fossils in her 2002 Master of Science thesis. EFE