The Amplest Avian


The recently discovered fossils of a bird, now extinct, was large enough to rival some modern aircraft:

Researchers describing fossil remains of P. sandersi for the first time say the bird had a wingspan of up to 24 feet, qualifying it as the largest flying bird ever to take to Earth’s skies. Its size exceeds some estimates for the limits of powered flight, though computer models based on the well-preserved skeleton suggest the animal was an excellent glider. In a paper published [Monday] in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers theorize the bird flew long oceanic distances in search of prey, similar to today’s albatrosses.

But Andy Coghlan asks, “Was this the biggest bird ever to grace the skies?”

With a wingspan of about 6.4 meters, Pelagornis sandersi was nearly twice the width of a wandering albatross, the living bird with the greatest wingspan, at 3.5 meters [11.5 feet]. Its size puts it on a par with the similarly whopping Argentavis, which was estimated to have a wingspan of 7 meters [23 feet] but may have been smaller than that. Either way, they were all dwarfed by the extinct flying reptile Quetzalcoatlus northropiperhaps the largest pterosaur, with a wingspan of up to 11 meters [36 feet].

(Photo of Pelagornis sandersi fossils via Wiki)