Giant, Hobbit-Eating Stork Discovered

12/14/2010

Scientists have discovered fossils of a giant, hobbit-eating stork.  This is definitely one of the oddest ledes I've had the pleasure of writing for this blog.  Here's the explanation.

This odd story started several years ago, when fossils of a previously unknown human species were discovered by paleoanthropologists on the island of Flores in Indonesia.  They gave the new species the official name Homo floresiensis.  At the time, the Lord of the Rings film trilogy was at the height of its popularity, and that, along with the diminutive size of this new human (roughly one meter tall) resulted in the nickname for the species: hobbits.

Marabou Stork FLICKR Fascinatingly, these tiny humans coexisted with modern humans (Homo sapiens) on Flores for thousands of years.  Some theories suggest that it was competition with the larger H. sapiens that ultimately spelled the doom of H. floresiensis.  Now, another bizarre discovery adds a new potential threat to the hobbits, this one in the form of a giant, predatory stork.

Named Leptoptilos robustus, this newly discovered stork was similar to a modern-day marabou stork except it stood at a height of almost two meters.  Based on the predatory behavior of the living marabou stork, some scientist have suggested the possibility that this giant stork hunted and fed upon young hobbits. (You can see an illustration comparing the size of the stork compared to a H. floresiensis here.)

J.R.R. Tolkien dreamt up ringwraiths, warg riding orcs, Gollum, and other nasties to hunt his hobbits, but it's sure he never thought of this!

VIDEO: Check a modern-day marabou stork in action.  Watch out, Frodo!

 Marabou stork photo by dbarronoss via Flickr.

 


David Mizejewski is a naturalist with the National Wildlife Federation. His goal is to inspire others to appreciate the wonders of nature. Meet David >
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