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Controversial prehistoric egg identified as last ‘demon’s sand of death’

The only almost completely intact Genyornis eggshell has been discovered. It was found by N. Spooner and collected by Gifford H. Miller, South Australia. The presence of four holes in the egg indicates that it was preceded by a leaky follicle. Credit: Gifford H. Miller

Scientists identify ancient birds behind giant prehistoric eggs

The many years of scientific debate in Australia have decided which animal is the real mother of the giant clock. In a recent study, researchers from the University of Copenhagen showed their global counterparts that the eggs could only be the last of a rare set of megafauna known as “the demon ducks of death.”

Consider living next to a bird that weighs 200 kg, measures 2 meters in length and has a giant beak. This was the situation of the first humans to settle in Australia about 65,000 years ago.

Juniors Newtonthe last members of the “satanic ducks”, coexisted with our ancestors there as a species of the now extinct family of duck-like birds.

Illustration of Genyornis Newtoni being chased by a giant lizard about 50,000 years ago in Australia. Credit: Illustration provided by artist Peter Trossler.

According to a recent study by experts from the University of Copenhagen and an international team of colleagues, the flightless bird lays eggs the size of a melon, presumably for the benefit of ancient humans, who probably collected and ingested them as their primary source of protein. The study has just been published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Ever since experts first discovered the 50,000-year-old pieces of eggshell 40 years ago, the huge eggs have been the subject of debate. Until recently, it was not known whether eggs really belong to the “devil’s loins” family, also known as dromornithids.

Since 1981, the identity of the laying bird has been a source of controversy for scientists around the world. While some have suggested Juniors NewtonOthers believe that the missiles of progora Vogel, an extinct member of the megapode species group. progora They were “chicken-like birds” that weighed only five to seven kilograms and had huge feet.

Eggshells are too few, according to proponents progora A bird, for a bird as big as Juniors Newton to post them.

“However, our analysis of egg protein sequences clearly shows that eggshells cannot come out of megacode and progora Josephine Stiller, assistant professor at the Department of Biology at the University of Copenhagen and one of the researchers behind the new study, explains.

“It could just be Genyornis. As such, we have stopped a long and heated discussion about the origin of these oocytes,” added co-author and professor Matthew Collins at the University of Copenhagen, whose field of research is evolutionary genetics.

Emu Egg and Genyornis Newtoni

To the right is an emu egg and to the left is the egg that scientists believe came from the demon Duck of Doom, Juniors Newton† The last egg weighs about 1.5 kg, which is more than 20 times the weight of an average chicken egg. Credit: Trevor Worthy

Select the protein assay and parent parent database

In the sand dunes of Wallaroo and Woodpoint, South Australia, researchers examined eggshell proteins.

The proteins were broken into small pieces by bleaching before the researchers assembled the pieces in the correct order and used artificial intelligence to study their structure. The protein sequences gave them a set of genetic “codes” that they could compare to the genes from more than 350 bird species currently in existence.

Genyornis Newtonian femur

femur of Juniors Newton (Left) And to the right is a wedge-shaped bone that is slightly smaller than a dome. Credit: Trevor Worthy

“We used our data from the B10K project, which currently contains the genome of all major bird lines, to reconstruct the group of birds to which the extinct bird probably belonged. It became clear that the eggs were not laid by a megacode, and therefore does not belong progoraJosephine Stiller explains.

Thus, scientists have solved the mystery of the origin of the ancient Australian eggs and given us new knowledge about evolution.

“We are pleased to have conducted a multidisciplinary study using protein sequence analysis to shed light on animal evolution,” concludes Matthew Collins.

Eggs were ingested by early humans in Australia

Previous research into egg shards suggests that the shells were boiled and then thrown into fireplaces. The mountain trout on the surface of the eggshell confirms this and shows that the first Australians devoured the eggs about 65,000 years ago.

Genyornis.  Eggshell fragments

Eggshell fragments from an ancient nest in southern Australia. The mass of eggshells collected within a square meter corresponds to about 12 whole eggs. Credit: Gifford H. Miller

The first Australians may have harvested eggs from nests, which is thought to have led to the extinction of Jenornis 47,000 years ago.

For more information on this research, see: The first Australian humans to eat giant eggs from huge flightless birds.

Reference: “Ancient Proteins Solve the Genyornis Eggshell Identity Debate” by Beatrice Demarche, Josephine Stiller, Alicia Greeley, Megan McKee, Yuan Ding, Tom Gilbert, Julia Clarke, Lucas J. Maggie, Joji Zhang, Michael Pons, Matthew James Collins and Gifford Miller, May 24, 2022, available here. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
DOI: 10.1073 / pnas.2109326119

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