Australia’s extinct giant eagle was big enough to snatch koalas
March 16, 2023 1:24 AM   Subscribe

Australia’s extinct giant eagle was big enough to snatch koalas from trees. Dynatoaetus gaffae (Gaff’s powerful eagle) lived during the Pleistocene epoch, perhaps between 700,000 and 50,000 years ago. At twice the size of a wedge-tailed eagle (which it coexisted with) and with a potential wingspan of up to 3m [9.84 feet], this species is the largest known eagle to have lived in Australia, and one of the largest continental raptors in the world. Only two larger eagles ever existed anywhere: Gigantohierax suarezi, which hunted giant rodents in Cuba, and the giant Haasts eagle, Hieraaetus moorei that hunted large moa in New Zealand.
posted by chariot pulled by cassowaries (13 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I love the history of megafauna in our country, our birds of prey, and are really interested in the giant extinct birds of the world. This has really got me excited. I’m a fiction author in the midst of writing a gothic Australian novel featuring giant oversized birds, and incorporating elements of our metafauna in our story, and this hits me right in the research guts. Would love to see its skeleton!
posted by chronic sublime at 3:12 AM on March 16 [6 favorites]

🎶 hunting giant rodents in Cuba, whoooa / take me where the April sun gonna treat me so right 🎶
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 3:19 AM on March 16 [2 favorites]

Could they have carried a hobbit?

Asking for a friend.
posted by Insert Clever Name Here at 3:26 AM on March 16 [12 favorites]

Australia’s extinct giant eagle was big enough to snatch koalas from trees.

Koalas are quite dense, so a koala dropped from a typical eagle soaring height would land with the force of a small bomb. Clearly, then, the discovery of this eagle has opened a wealth of research avenues for further study on the evolution of the drop bear. Could what was formerly thought of as its own species instead have arisen from a symbiosis?
posted by flabdablet at 3:53 AM on March 16 [9 favorites]

big enough to snatch koalas

Is there any evidence that it dropped them on other prey?
posted by Major Clanger at 3:55 AM on March 16 [1 favorite]

posted by flabdablet at 4:04 AM on March 16

It appears to be the season for enormous birds.
posted by Peach at 5:20 AM on March 16

It’s times like these that I really miss sick van art. Who wouldn’t want to see one of these bad boys spray-painted on a side panel? Perhaps with a dark mage in its clutches.
posted by Don.Kinsayder at 6:11 AM on March 16 [2 favorites]

I just happen to live in Australia and am obsessed with birds and let me tell you, Wedge-tailed Eagles are jaw droppingly impressive, gigantic, and probably can and do snatch koalas without much trouble.

All that to say that I would be more worried that a Gaff’s Powerful Eagle would snatch me!
posted by pwally at 7:02 AM on March 16 [1 favorite]

Wedgies are the business, no two ways about it.

A pair of white bellied sea eagles lives quite close to my favourite river swimming hole, and I'll occasionally see one of them soaring above as I float on my back in the water looking up at the little fluffy clouds.

I have yet to be mistaken for a juicy fish, but I do try not to flap too enticingly when they're up there.
posted by flabdablet at 7:15 AM on March 16 [1 favorite]

Insert Clever Name Here, can't say for the Gaff's powerful eagle, but the Haasts eagle was known to eat children. There is archaeological evidence for it. Since Hobbits are child-sized, it stands to reason that they would eat hobbits too.
posted by rednikki at 7:34 AM on March 16 [3 favorites]

Alt-f drop bear. Not disappointed. Well done.
posted by Abehammerb Lincoln at 10:21 AM on March 16 [1 favorite]

There is archaeological evidence for it.

The Institute for Creation Research (Wikipedia) is not the place I would go for archaeological evidence of anything.
posted by jedicus at 1:48 PM on March 16 [4 favorites]

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