Antarctic fossils may be the largest flying birds to date, study shows

Antarctic fossils may be the largest flying birds to date, study shows

For decades, these fossils have been in a museum at the University of California, Berkeley, until in 2015 a graduate student named Peter Kloess began to stab.

In research Kloess identified these birds, published in the journal “Scientific Reports” on Monday, as pelagornithids, a group of predators that have roamed the Earth’s southern waters for at least 60 million years. They are known as “bone-toothed” birds because of their sharp teeth and long beak, which helped them catch fish and squid in the sea.

The birds were huge with a wingspan reaching 6.4 meters. And the research suggests that certain fossils may have been the largest of them.

Using the size and dimensions of the fossil, researchers were able to estimate the size of the remaining individuals. The paw boned bird was “the largest known specimen of the entire extinct pelagornitide group,” and the jawbone bird “looked larger if not larger than the largest known skeleton of the bone-toothed bird group.” . “

“These Antarctic fossils … are likely not only the largest flying birds in Eose, but also some of the largest volcanic birds that have ever lived.”

Chloes and other researchers have confirmed that the origin of the foot bones dates back 50 million years, and the jaw bone is about 40 million years old. This is evidence that birds emerged in the Cenozoic Era after an asteroid struck Earth and destroyed almost all dinosaurs.

“Our fossil discoveries are estimated to have a wingspan of 5 to 6 meters (approximately 20 feet), and show that the birds evolved to really enormous sizes relatively quickly after the dinosaurs went extinct and dominated the seas by millions of years.” Kloess press release At university.

Ashley Poust of the San Diego Museum of Natural History, co-author of the study, said, “The extreme and enormous size of these extinct birds is unmatched in their marine habitat.

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Like the Albatross, Pelagornitid has traveled extensively around the world and was able to fly over the sea for weeks at a time. At that time, the sea was not yet dominated by whales and seals, which means that giant birds could easily eat them.

“The large (pelagornithids) are almost twice the size of an albatross, and these boned birds would have been powerful predators that evolved to the top of the ecosystem,” said Thomas Stidham, co-author of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. From Beijing.

The study also painted a portrait of what Antarctica might look like 50 million years ago. At that time, it would have been much warmer, home to land mammals such as sloths and distant relatives of the anteater. Antarctic birds also flourished, including early penguin species and extinct relatives of ducks and ostriches. Pelagornithids would have existed in this ecosystem alongside other ecosystems, and could potentially compete for gathering and nesting spaces.

Seymour Island, the closest part of Antarctica at the tip of South America, was home to numerous other breakthroughs. Fossil research found there This april A small species of frog, the first modern amphibians found in Antarctica, once lived in the area. Leech fossil cocoons have also been found on Seymour Island and a handful of mammals.

In April, Thomas Mörs, senior curator of the Swedish Museum of Natural History, said, “I think (Antarctica) was a rich and diverse place.” “We only found some of what lived there.”

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