Prehistoric Chilean bird sets wingspan record at 17ft

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Washington, Sep 16 (ANI): At 17 feet, a prehistoric, bony-toothed bird from Chile has set the world wingspan record.

The measurement is based on well preserved wing bones from the newly named bird species, Pelagornis chilensis, a.k.a. "huge pseudoteeth" from Chile, which soared the skies 5-10 million years ago.

The animal weighed about 64 pounds and belonged to a group known as pelagornithids-birds characterized by long, slender beaks bearing many spiny, tooth-like projections.

Now, it is believed that 17 feet may be close to the maximum wingspan that can be achieved by a flying bird.

Prior wingspan estimates for pelagornithids went up to 20 feet, but they were based on more fragmented fossils.

"Most likely, evolution of such large sizes was to avoid competition with other birds. Birds with such a large size can, of course, sail across huge distances and may more easily find prey in the open ocean," Discovery News quoted lead author Gerald Mayr, a paleornithologist at the Senckenberg Research Institute and Natural History Museum, as saying.

However, "there are a number of drawbacks if you become so large," he added.

Chicks would have to be raised over a long period of time, making them more prone to predation.

"Moreover, bird feathers are quite heavy, so very large birds may have become too heavy," he added.

Mayr and paleontologist David Rubilar of Chile's National Museum of Natural History analyzed the big bird's fossilized remains, which are 70 percent complete.

The bird is described in the latest issue of the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology. (ANI)

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