New Zealand's late Pleistocene and Holocene Haast's eagle (Harpagornis moorei) was the sole predator of the moa (Aves: Dinornithiformes) and the largest eagle so far described. Recent molecular evidence has hypothesised that it evolved from a much smaller Asian/Australian eagle witthhin tht past 1.8 my. Osteometrof the igh-reaolution spirol computed tomography of skeletal remains of Haast's eagle were used to determine morphological and functionally significant characteristics of the central and peripheral nervous system and sensory apparatuses and to test these against hypotheses about behavior and evolution based on molecular and external morphology. Compared with other accipitrids, Haast's eagle had a proportionally low endocranial volume for its body weight. There was no anatomical evidence to support the significant use of olfaction by Haast's eagle, as the olfactory bulb size and cross-sectional area of the olfactory nerve foramen were no larger than would be expected for Accipitridae of this body weight. Both the size of the neural canal at the cervicothoracic junction and the brachial spinal quotient (ratio of neural canal area at cervicothoracic and caudal thoracic levels) were low, suggesting that the spinal cord at brachial levels was also small. These data are consistent with the hypothesis that Harpagornis had evolved to large size from a smaller ancestor and that the ancestors of Haast's eagle appear to have undergone rapid expansion of body size and elements of the hindlimb somatic nervous system at the expense of enlargement of the brain and visual, olfactory, and vestibular apparatuses.
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Vol. 29 • No. 3