Learn about a new prehistoric animal every week with us. It will be a blast!
STL Science Center
09 July 2016
Ignore the Placement
The problems with bird fossils exted far beyond the crushed and fragmentary remains that they are composed of. This fragmentary nature leads to many hypotheses of relationships and uncertain positions within the group. This includes the recently announced material related to ostriches and the fact that the tree, based on genetics, morphology, or whatever else, is in continual flux these days. That being said, we can approach our fossil for this week knowing that we are going to mention the family and genus without going into too much detail on hypothesized positions in the group. Regardless, the largest of bird genera needs very little more than itself to be intriguing enough to discuss. Having pseudoteeth also makes this giant fossil rather intriguing. Described in 1857 by Lartet, the genus Pelagornis consists of four currently recognized species; P. miocaenus Lartet, 1857, P. mauretanicus Mourer-Chauviré and Geraads, 2008, P. chilensis Mayr and Rubilar, 2010 and P. sandersi Ksepka, 2014. All four species have pseudoteeth and the wingspan of P. chilensis is estimated to be the second largest of the four at 17 feet from wingtip to wingtip. Compare this the albatross (and an eagle and pigeon), one of the largest extant seabirds, above. The species P. sandersi is estimated to have had a wingspan at least seven feet longer (that is 24 feet folks). We can compare that to even more extant birds, because it is amazing.