Little is known to scientists about how early owls evolved. A study of the oldest owl fossil, discovered 30 years ago at the Senkenberg Institute in Frankfurt and the Museum of Natural History in Frankfurt, Germany, found that each of the ancient owl’s claws is different in size and features completely different from modern owls. The study was published in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.
The owl fossil is about the size of a modern snow owl, and all but the skulls are preserved intact and are previously unknown large owl species. However, it is clearly different in that the claws on all of the owls today are about the same size, but the back toes and second toes of this ancient species are significantly larger.
The researchers say these toe ratios can reflect the evolution of owl hunting patterns. The main daytime action of the raptor eagles and eagles, all as big as the toes, they mainly use pickaxes to kill prey, claws only by piercing prey in the hunt to play an auxiliary role. The extinct owl is likely to hunt its prey with its feet. As a result, 60 million years ago, the owl’s lifestyle was clearly different from that of its modern relatives.
It is not clear why owls have evolved to change hunting techniques. But the researchers believe this may be related to the spread of the late New Eras and early New World eclipses about 34 million years ago. In order to compete with the birds of prey that are active during the day, the owls have developed specialized feeding skills to achieve their attention-grabbing night-time habits.
The new findings also reveal the high diversity of early Owls in North America, ranging from small species 12 cm tall to large species 60 cm tall.