My favorite infographic from the April issue of Scientific American appears in a fascinating article about Pelagornis sandersi, an extinct species of bird that lived about 25 million years ago. This bird is a recently discovered member of the pelagornithid group, many of which evolved to be veritable giants compared to the birds of today. Fossils unearthed in Charleston, South Carolina revealed new information about the astounding scale and unique biomechanics of these massive flyers.
Upon reading such an introduction, one’s next question is bound to be: “Just how big was this bird?” (Also, did it happen to resemble an eight-foot-tall yellow Muppet, as some might surmise?) Fortunately, the excellent work of illustrators Raúl Martín and Daisy Chung provides visual clarification. The infographic below shows what paleontologists believe P. sandersi looked like, and compares its size, structure, and flight style to that of some well-known modern birds.
As an aside, the opening image of the associated article also features a scientifically based representation (though not actually an infographic) of this captivating creature. In a fun and informative video, artist James Gurney shows how he went about visualizing a bird that no longer exists.