Fossils unearthed at a construction project in South Carolina belong to a bird with the largest wingspan ever known, according to a new study. The animal measured 6.4 meters from wingtip to wingtip, about the length of a 10-passenger limousine and approaching twice the size of the wandering albatross, today’s wingspan record-holder. Like modern-day albatrosses, the newly described species would have been a soaring champ.
Pelagornis sandersi belongs to an extinct group of species that lived between 3 and 55 million years ago, which
ranged worldwide, because their fossils have been found on all continents. Previously, scientists had suggested that pelagornithids, as the birds are known, were related to pelicans and albatrosses, but recent studies hint that the group is more closely related to ducks, geese, and swans. More.
The reason for the extinction of the genus is unclear but it may have been related to “changes in climate that affected wind speeds over the seas, a change in the availability of preferred foods, or some combination of the two.”
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