It’s been a long, long time since I covered this topic! This is where I speculate about real creatures that are dragon-like in some way. Well, I’m happy to report that a new fossil of a large prehistoric bird has been unearthed.
Actually, it was unearthed twice. Pelagornis Sandersi was originally excavated near Charleston, South Carolina by Albert Sanders of the Charleston Museum. The bones were collected in 1983 but then sat neglected in a drawer, according to news reports. Thirty years later, Sanders invited fellow paleontologist Daniel Ksepa to explore the museum’s collection. Once Ksepa realized he had found a new species, he named the giant fossil bird in Sanders’s honor.
Pelagornis is indeed huge compared to most fossil birds. Its wings would have stretched up to 7.38 meters/24 feet across. When gliding, it could have reached 49 mph! Among its interesting features are tooth-like combs projecting from its beak.
For many years, scientists had believed birds had a certain size limit, and that if they grew any larger they would not be able to fly. Pelagornis shows that a bird with much wider wings could still take to the air, albeit with a relatively small body compared to its wingspan.
Previous to Pelagornis’s discovery, the largest known fossil bird was Argentinavis magnificens. It was thought to spread its wings up to 19 feet/6 meters. Argentinavis had a somewhat heavier build than Pelagornis. The largest birds now living, such as Wandering Albatrosses, have a span up to 10 feet/3 meters.
Click here if you want to read the full LA Times article from July 8, 2014.