Fossils discovered at airport could be largest flying bird ever

Bones found at South Carolina airport of bird with 24ft wingspan

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Fossils found at Charleston Airport could be biggest flying bird that ever lived

A number of fossilised bones discovered during the expansion of a US airport could belong to the largest flying bird that ever lived.

The prehistoric creature lived 25 million years ago, and had a wingspan between 6.1 and 7.4 metres - double the size of the royal albatross, currently the largest flying bird alive.

The bird, named Pelagornis sandersi, had short legs, and reached speeds up to 60km/h, feeding on fish over the ocean.

The skeleton, including the skull, shoulder blade and hollow leg and wing bones, was discovered at Charleston Airport in South Carolina in 1983, but its first formal description has just been released by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, reports counton2.com.

The remains had been kept hidden in a drawer at the Charleston Museum until study author Daniel Ksepka, a palaeontologist at North Carolina State University,came across them 30 years later.

Ksepka said its mouth was filled with bony spikes that gave it the look of a dragon. He told the Guardian: "This was a remarkable fossil, almost like something out of Game of Thrones."

Speaking to the LA Times, he added the findings "raise the ceiling for birds - we increase the upper limit of how large we knew birds could get in terms of wingspan.

"It's just another example where the fossil record can tell us something about biology that we might not be able to know from what we have around today."

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