On Monday, paleontologists revealed the biggest flying bird to ever live. They called the bird Pelagornis sandersi, which belonged to a family of toothed birds that flew over the oceans around 25 million years ago.
The fossil of the bird was found at the Charleston airport in 1983 while construction workers were doing their jobs. A backhoe had to be used in order to pull the bird out from the ground. The Pelagornis sandersi had a wingspan of 20-24 feet.
According to paleontologist Antoine Louchart from the Institute of Functional Genomics in France, the “Pelagornis was certainly much lighter and better ‘flier’” than the condor.
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Studies indicate that Pelagornis spent much of its time flying over water. It soared over oceans for long distances. Paleontologist and science curator Dan Ksepka said that the Earth’s climate was a bit warmer 25 million years ago and the sea levels were higher. “So even though the Charleston airport, where the fossil was found, is on dry land today, it used to be an ocean,” he said.
Another interesting characteristic of the Pelagornis is its pseudo-teeth, which it used for catching prey. “They don’t have enamel, they don’t grow in sockets, and they aren’t lost and replaced throughout the creature’s life span. Instead, the bone just extends from the jaw,” Ksepka said.
Paleontologist Dan Ksepka talks about Pelagornis
The estimated average weight of the Pelagornis is 48 pounds, which is considered heavy to run on water and take off like waterfowl, but is still capable of flying unlike an ostrich, which is too heavy.
“I think they just waited on the beach for a strong wind to carry them aloft,” Ksepka said referring to the Pelagornis.
Paleontologists have also been comparing the Pelagornis to other birds. Ksepka is confident that this is the biggest bird that they have discovered that was capable of flying.
Image via YouTube