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'Ninja' Bird, Xenicibis Xympithecus, Discovered With Weapon-Like Wings

The Huffington Post   First Posted: 01/11/11 01:08 PM ET Updated: 05/25/11 07:25 PM ET

Ibis

Is it a bird or a ninja? Okay, it's a bird. But scientists have found bones from this extinct creature that reveal it used its banana-shaped wings as weapons, similar to how ninjas use nunchucks.

Bones from Xenicibis xympithecus, a flightless Jamaican ibis bird, were recently found, as reported in Proceedings B of the Royal Society's journal. The five-pound bird was found to have hands with block-like fingers and thick palm bones, its hands comparable to a nunchuck or baseball bat. No other vertebrate in the world has been found with limbs modified to form clubs. After studying the wingbones, researchers believe that the bird used its wings as a weapon, swinging them at opponents like a club. There was no differentiation in wings between males and females, suggesting that both sexes engaged in fighting.

Modern ibis birds are known for fighting, especially during nesting and feeding, when they must protect their territory. The bird can grip an opponent with its beak and strike with its wings. Other birds that whack opponents with their wings include swans and geese - some geese even have spurs on their wings to add a little punch...no pun intended.

But there's no other vertebrate out there with swinging club wings, and as researcher Nicholas Longrich puts it, "As a biologist it's sort of cool to find something and be able to say, 'Wow, I haven't seen that one before.'" Maybe he never watched "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles."

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