Think birds can’t eat humans? Think again!
The remains of a giant bird belonging to the Marabou stork family has been discovered on the Indonesian island of Flores. The stork is estimated to have been 1.8 meters or almost six feet tall, and to have weighed up to 16 kilograms or 35 pounds, making it taller and heavier than any other living stork species.
Flores was once also home to a smaller species of humans, referred to by some as “hobbits” after the fictional small humans in the book “The Hobbit” by JRR Tolkien. Scientists believe that the stork may have been capable of hunting and eating the younger humans, although there is no proof that happened.
Paleontologists, or scientists who study prehistoric life, made the discovery after finding four leg bones believed to be between 20,000 to 50,000 years old. Although they also found fragments of wing bones, they don’t believe that the storks could fly given how heavy they were.
The giant bird is the latest unusual-sized species to be discovered in Flores, an island between Indonesia and Australia that was long thought to be uninhabited. However in 2004, a small human-like species was discovered in a cave on the island. This species, name Homo Florosiensis after the island, are believed to be just one meter or under three feet tall and to have lived until around 17,000 years ago. In addition to humans, the island was also home to dwarf elephants, giant rats, lizards and Komodo dragons.
One reason for the island’s odd-sized species is believed to be the fact that it was completely isolated from other islands, and therefore had a small number of predators. This resulted in the preying species (including humans) not needing to grow larger to protect themselves or to hunt, and usual preys like rodents and birds becoming larger to compete for food.
All the discoveries made on Flores were found under a thick layer of volcanic ash, suggesting that a volcanic eruption may have been the cause of extinction, along with the arrival of the modern, larger human beings.
Looks like Tolkien’s world of hobbits may have existed after all.