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18.12.2015 21:09 - Encyclopedia Largest prehistoric animals Vol.1 Vertebrates part2 Birds Ch.3 Flying giants-which is the largest flying bird
Автор: valentint Категория: Забавление   
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Последна промяна: 01.07.2019 13:19

Battle of the Big Birds

P. sandersi‘s size puts it just ahead of Argentavis, previously considered the largest bird known. Argentavis, distantly related to today’s Andean condor, ruled the skies over South America 6-8 million years ago and had a wingspan of about 23 feet.

Researchers analyzing P. sandersi note that fossils of the massive bird and its relatives have been found on all seven continents, indicating that the animals were successful for millions of years. Their sudden disappearance from the fossil record some 3 million years ago remains a mystery, but reminds us that no animal is too big to fail.
However, it is worth noting that not all individuals of a species reach their kind’s maximum size once fully gown, so a rougher wingspan estimate of anywhere between 20 and 24 feet for both Argentavis and Pelagornis sandersi is probably a much safer and fairer assumption. Indeed, it is unlikely that we have found the very largest specimen of either species, so the title of ‘largest flying bird ever’ may yet change hands (wings?) multiple times in the future. It is also worth noting that Argentavis is considered to have been significantly heavier than Pelagornis (70 kg to 40kg respectively), making ‘largest’ claims based purely on wingspan appear somewhat disingenuous.

Neither bird comes close to the largest pterosaurs, however. The supersized reptile gliders of the Arzhdarcidae family had wingspans of 35 feet or more. Like the rest of Earth’s megafauna at the time, however, the pterosaurs perished at the end of the Cretaceous, 65 million years ago.


The largest flight-capable bird was Argentavis magnificens which a wingspan of 8.3 m (27 ft), and a body weight of 110 kg (240 lb).

The humerus (upper arm bone) of Argentavis is somewhat damaged. Even so, it allows a fairly accurate estimate of its length in life. Argentavis‍‍"‍s humerus was only slightly shorter than an entire human arm. The species apparently had stout, strong legs and large feet which enabled it to walk with ease. The bill was large, rather slender, and had a hooked tip with a wide gape.
The estimate span was 7 m (23 ft), height c. 1.5 m (4.9 ft) and the mass approx. 72 kg (159 lb) In 2014 another extinct species, Pelagornis sandersi, was described having a similar size (although only weighing 22 to 40 kg). For comparison, the living bird with the largest wingspan is the wandering albatross, at 3.65 m (12.0 ft). Since A. magnificens is known to have been a land bird, another good point of comparison is the Andean condor, which is not too distantly related to Argentavis. This bird is among the largest land birds, with a wingspan of up to 3.2 m (10 ft) and weighing up to 15 kg (33 lb).
The ability to fly is not a simple question of weight ratios, except in extreme cases. Size and structure of the wing must also be taken into account. As a rule of thumb, a wing loading of 25 kg/m2 is considered the limit for avian flight.
The heaviest extant flying birds are known to weigh up to 21 kg (46 lb) (there are several contenders, among which are the European great bustard and the African kori bustard). A mute swan, which may have briefly lost the power of flight due to its extreme weight, was found to have weighed 23 kg (51 lb). The sarus crane is the tallest flying bird alive, at up to 2 m (6.6 ft) high, standing nearly as high as Argentavis due to its long legs and neck.
The largest known flying creatures are a group of pterosaurs named azhdarchids, extinct flying reptiles that existed during the age of the dinosaurs and died out at the end of the Cretaceous. Estimations of the wingspan of the largest species like Quetzalcoatlus and Hatzegopteryx exceed 10 m (33 ft), with less conservative estimates being 12 m (40 ft) or more. Mass estimates for these azhdarchids are on the order of 200–250 kg (440-550 lbs).
Currently accepted estimates:

Wingspan: approximately 7 m (23 ft)

Wing area: 8.11 m2 (87.3 ft2)

Wing loading: 84.6 N/m2 (1.77 lbs/ft2)

Body Length: 1.26 m (4.1 ft)

Height: 1.5–2 m (4.9–6.6 ft)

Mass: 70–72 kg (154–159 lb)

Comparison with extant birds suggests it laid one or two eggs with a mass of somewhat over 1 kg (smaller than an ostrich egg) every two years. Climate considerations make it likely that the birds incubated over the winter, mates exchanging duties of incubating and procuring food every few days, and that the young were independent after some 16 months, but not fully mature until aged about a dozen years. Mortality must have been very low; to maintain a viable population less than about 2% of birds may have died each year. Of course, Argentavis suffered hardly any predation, and mortality was mainly from old age, accidents and disease.
It appears likely, therefore, that the average and maximum age reached by these creatures was fairly high, possibly some 50–100 years;compare with ostrich at perhaps 60–70, and parrots at perhaps 80–120 at most – if they were to mature and reproduce and replace members that had died "young" – for whatever reason. Presently, no direct evidence is available for this suggestion; however, K-strategy lifestyle correlates with greater average and maximum age.
From the size and structure of its wings it is inferred that A. magnificens flew mainly by soaring, using flapping flight only during short periods. It is probable that it used thermal currents as well. It has been estimated that the minimal velocity for the wing of A. magnificens is about 11 m/s or 40 kilometres per hour (25 mph).Especially for takeoff, it would have depended on the wind, as although its legs were strong enough to provide it with a running or jumping start, the wings were simply too long to flap effectively until the bird was some height off the ground.However, skeletal evidence suggests that its breast muscles were not powerful enough for wing flapping for extended periods.Argentavis may have used mountain slopes and headwinds to take off, and probably could manage to do so from even gently sloping terrain with little effort. It may have flown and lived much like the modern Andean condor, scanning large areas of land from aloft for carrion. The climate of the Andean foothills in Argentina during the late Miocene was warmer and drier than today, which would have further aided the bird in staying aloft atop thermal updrafts.
Argentavis‍" territories measured probably more than 500 km2, which the birds screened for food, possibly utilizing a generally north-south direction to avoid being slowed by adverse winds. This species seems less aerodynamically suited for predation than its relatives. It probably preferred to scavenge for carrion, and it is possible that it habitually chased metatherian carnivores such as Thylacosmilidae from their kills. Unlike extant condors and vultures, the other species of teratorns generally had long, eagle-like beaks and are believed to have been active predators, being less ponderous than Argentavis. When hunting actively, A. magnificens would probably have swooped from high above onto their prey, which they usually would have been able to grab, kill, and swallow without landing. Skull structure suggests that it ate most of its prey whole rather than tearing off pieces of flesh.

Pelagornis sandersi


Pelagornis sandersi is a species of extinct flying bird with a wingspan estimated to be between 6.1 and 7.4 m (20 and 24 ft). If the larger estimated wingspan holds true, this makes it the largest flying bird yet discovered, with a wingspan twice as large as the living flying bird with the largest wingspan, the wandering albatross.
In this regard, it supplants the former largest known flying bird, Argentavis magnificens (which is also extinct). A. magnificens wingspan, without feathers, was about 4.0 m (13.1 ft), while that of P. sandersi was about 1.2 m (4 ft) longer. P. sandersi"s fossil remains date from 25 million years ago, during the Chattian age of the Oligocene.
Some scientists expressed surprise at the idea that this species could fly at all, given that, at between 22 and 40 kg (48 and 88 lb), it would be considered too heavy by the predominant theory of the mechanism by which birds fly. Dan Ksepka of the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center in Durham, North Carolina, who discovered the new species, thinks it was able to fly in part because of its relatively small body and long wings, and because it, like the albatross, spent much of its time over the ocean, where the bird relied on wind currents rising up from the ocean to keep it aloft.
The only known fossil of P. sandersi was first uncovered in 1983 at Charleston International Airport, South Carolina, when construction workers were building a new terminal there. At the time the bird lived, 25 million years ago, this area was an ocean. The bird is named after Albert Sanders, the former curator of natural history at Charleston Museum, who led the excavation. It currently sits at the Charleston Museum, where it was identified as a new species by Dan Ksepka in 2014. "Though no feathers survived, Ksepka extrapolated the mass, wingspan and wing shape from the fossilised bones and fed them into a computer to estimate how the bird might fly. A conservative estimate put the wingspan of P. sandersi at around 6.4 metres."
P. sandersi had short, stumpy legs, and was probably able to fly only by hopping off cliff edges. It has been estimated that it was able to fly at up to 60 km/h (37 mph). Like all members of the Pelagornithidae, P. sandersi had pseudo-teeth that bore little resemblance to those of modern-day animals. According to Ksepka, P. sandersi‍ "s teeth "don’t have enamel, they don’t grow in sockets, and they aren’t lost and replaced throughout the creature’s life span.




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