SQUAWKZILLA, AS HE (or possibly she) has come to be known, is not the sort of parrot that would sit on your shoulder while you cooed “pretty polly”. Instead, this huge flightless bird (weighing around 7kg and about a metre tall) would probably have pecked a chunk out of you with its massive beak. Although, as do most parrots, Squawkzilla would have fed on fruit and other vegetation, it is likely to have supplemented its diet with a bit of carnivory.
That much, at least, can be interpreted from its fossilised leg bone, which was found a decade ago in 19m-year-old sediment laid down in an ancient lake near St Bathans on New Zealand’s South Island. Squawkzilla has been formally named Heracles inexpectatus, after a re-examination of the bone last year concluded it was not, as previously thought, from a huge eagle.
A model of Squawkzilla, along with remains and re-creations of other giant creatures discovered over the past 20 years, has gone on show at a new exhibition in the Canterbury Museum, in Christchurch. Among them is a formidable penguin you would also not like to meet. As big as an adult human and weighing some 70-80kg, Crossvallia waiparensis would have towered over a modern emperor penguin.
All these discoveries help confirm that...