With a wingspan of 20 to 24 feet, Pelagornis sandersi may have been the largest flying bird ever to grace the skies of the Earth. Gone now for some 25 million years, the current living contender for that title belongs to the Royal Albatross – at less than half that wingspan.
Announced in a paper published today in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the fossil bird was actually unearthed back in 1983 – by construction workers during excavation for a new terminal at the Charleston International Airport in South Carolina.
That’s right – this giant extinct bird was found at an airport, where it may have rivaled some of the smallest planes for size.
To understand the significance of the find, I spoke with paleontologist Dan Ksepka of the Bruce Museum (Greenwich, CT) about his discovery.
For more information, check out the press release.
And you can find the paper here: “Flight performance of the largest volant bird”