Name: Pelagornis.
Phonetic: Pel-ah-gor-nis.
Named By: Lartet‭ ‬-‭ ‬1857.
Synonyms: Neodontornis,‭ ‬Palaeochenoides,‭ ‬Tympanonesiotes.
Classification: Chordata,‭ ‬Aves,‭ ‬Odontopterygiformes,‭ ‬Pelagornithidae.
Species: P.‭ ‬miocaenus‭ (‬type‭)‬,‭ ‬P.‭ ‬chilensis,‭ ‬P.‭ ‬mauretanicus,‭ ‬P.‭ ‬sandersi.
Diet: Piscivore.
Size: ‭L‬arger individuals easily a wingspan of‭ ‬5‭ ‬to‭ ‬6‭ ‬meters across.‭ ‬Pelagornis sandersi wingspan estimated between‭ ‬6‭ ‬and‭ ‬7‭ ‬meters across.
Known locations: Coastal regions of Australia,‭ ‬Europe,‭ ‬Morocco,‭ ‬New Zealand,‭ ‬North America,‭ ‬South America.
Time period: Eocene through to‭ ‬early Pleistocene.
Fossil representation: Skulls and partial skeletons of many individuals.

       Pelagornis is a genus of large sea bird that as a genus existed for a‭ ‬very long time during the Paleocene.‭ ‬So large is Pelagornis that the genus is now seriously considered to be a contender for the title of largest known bird capable of flight.‭ ‬This is down to two factors.‭ ‬First the discovery of the Pelagornis species P.‭ ‬sandersi in‭ ‬2014,‭ ‬a species of Pelagornis with a wingspan estimated at‭ ‬the lower end six meters across,‭ ‬to as much as possibly as much as seven meters across.‭ ‬Second,‭ ‬the previous‭ ‘‬undisputed‭’ ‬largest bird Argentavis,‭ ‬has now seen size revisions supported by several palaeontologists to being around five and a half to six and a half meter wingspan,‭ ‬as opposed to the seven meters plus as previously suggested.‭ ‬This is all speculative however as neither Pelagornis sandersi or Argentavis are known from complete remains,‭ ‬there is just a slim probability that the wingspan of Pelagornis sandersi slightly exceeded that of Argentavis.‭ ‬Both of these birds however would have been dwarfed by the largest pterosaurs of the Mesozoic.
       Large birds are immediately questioned about their ability to fly,‭ ‬and there has even been speculation in some quarters that Pelagornis could not,‭ ‬though this is not a commonly accepted idea.‭ ‬The body plan of Pelagornis was similar to that of a wandering albatross‭ (‬Diomedea exulans‭)‬,‭ ‬which is the largest flying bird by wingspan alive today.‭ ‬The wandering albatross spends much of its time over the open ocean using the principal of dynamic soaring to stay airborne.‭ ‬This is the‭ ‬practice of using the air currents created by the waves of the ocean to continually glide close to the surface of the ocean.‭ ‬With similar wings and body plan,‭ ‬it is not impossible that Pelagornis could have used a similar method of flight,‭ ‬existing as a‭ ‬steady‭ ‬glider more than a continuous flapper of wings.
       Pelagornis had what are loosely dubbed pseudo-teeth growing from the edges of the bill,‭ ‬not true teeth which would grow from sockets in the jaw bone.‭ ‬These pseudo-teeth were not‭ ‬that strong and often broken away from fossils.‭ ‬They may still‭ ‬have been continually grown in life,‭ ‬and would have allowed Pelagornis to grab hold of slippery prey such as fish and perhaps even cephalopods like squid.‭ ‬Overall Pelagornis is thought to have had a similar lifestyle to‭ ‬the aforementioned wandering albatross.‭ ‬Food could be snatched from near the ocean surface,‭ ‬and perhaps even a limited diving ability to pursue prey underwater.‭ ‬The wandering albatross is also known to sometimes eat so much in one go that it becomes too heavy to take off until the food has passed through its system,‭ ‬and perhaps the same could have been true on certain occasions for Pelagornis.‭ ‬If Pelagornis also soared across the open oceans like the wandering albatross does,‭ ‬then that could go a long way to explaining why fossils of the Pelagornis genus are found upon numerous continents thousands of miles apart.

Further reading
-‭ ‬Osteology of a new giant bony-toothed bird from the Miocene of Chile,‭ ‬with a revision of the taxonomy of Neogene Pelagornithidae.‭ ‬-‭ ‬Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology‭ ‬30‭(‬5‭)‬:1313-1330.‭ ‬-‭ ‬G.‭ ‬Mayr‭ & ‬D.‭ ‬Rubilar-Rogers‭ ‬-‭ ‬2010.
-‭ ‬Flight performance of the largest volant bird.‭ ‬-‭ ‬Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences‭ ‬-‭ ‬D.‭ ‬T.‭ ‬Kespa‭ ‬-‭ ‬2014.


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