Raptors munched on human ancestors, the headlines could well say. The American Journal of Physical Anthropology is publishing research by Lee Berger saying that damage to the skull of the Taung child shows a pattern similar to monkey skulls that have been worked over by eagles.
The Ohio State study determined that eagles would swoop down, pierce monkey skulls with their thumb-like back talons, then hover while their prey died before returning to tear at the skull. Examination of thousands of monkey remains produced a pattern of damage done by birds, including holes and ragged cuts in the shallow bones behind the eye sockets.
Berger went back to the Taung skull, and found traces of the ragged cuts behind the eye sockets. He said none of the researchers who had for decades been debating how the child died had noticed the eye socket damage before.
Berger concluded man’s ancestors had to survive not just being hunted from the ground, but from the air. Such discoveries are “key to understanding why we humans today view the world the way we do,” he said.
Diane and I have noted that at two pounds, Rusty, our Harris’ Hawk, is capable of taking prey several times her weight. And given the pattern of behavior that we’ve seen (bascially, if it isn’t another Harris’ Hawk and looks remotely susceptible to attack, eat it), we have no doubt that a raptor several times larger of the same temperament would have no compunction in dining on us rather than hunting with us.