Let’s get the record wingspan measurement out of the way first: 21 feet or 6.4 meters. That’s double the wingspan of the albatross, the largest bird flying today!
Almost three years ago, remains began to appear of what we believed could be this bird. Then we found a bone that confirmed that it was a pelagornithid.
Carolina Acosta Hospitaleche, author of a report on the discovery in the Journal of Paleontology, says scientist from the Natural Sciences Museum of La Pampa, Argentina, confirmed that fossils discovered in 2013 at an Argentine research base on the Antarctic island of Marambio are from a bony-toothed pelagornithid that flew 50 million years ago with the widest wingspan ever seen.
How did these birds get so big? The planet was going through a warming period at that time and there was plenty to eat. Not only that, they had a vast dining area to choose from, says Marcos Cenizo, the director of the museum.
The shape of their wings allowed them to glide and cross large distances across the oceans.
For comparison, the wingspan of today’s wandering albatross can reach almost 12 feet (3.65 meters) and the Andean condor can reach 10 feet (3.2 meters). But this Antarctic pelagornithid wasn’t just wide, it was tall too. The reports say researchers speculate a bird with the record wingspan that could reach 16.4 feet (5 meters) tall and some with smaller wingspans could stand up to 7 meters (22 feet) in height. (That doesn’t seem to match the illustrations but who’s going to argue with the experts?)
Before you start envying other creatures from that era dining on 10-foot barbecued wings, the experts say this boney-toothed bird was bony all over – weighing at most 35 kilograms (77 pounds).
As more fossils are uncovered in Antarctica, there’s a good chance more record-breaking creatures will be found.
Are paleontologists excited? Think about how you feel when you’re digging around the bottom of your freezer and find that huge frozen turkey you forgot about.