The fossil of a bird with the largest wingspan ever — 20 to 24 feet from wingtip to wingtip — and a mouth full of spiky bones was discovered in 1983, and a recently released study of the extinct creature show just how intimidating it would have been.
The bird “is more like a dragon out of the 'Game of Thrones' show than anything alive today. It's so spectacularly weird," paleontologist Daniel Ksepka of the Bruce Museum in Greenwich, Conn., and author of the study, told USA Today
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The pseudo-teeth weren’t actual teeth, but were bony projections in the bird’s mouth, CBC News said
. All birds with teeth died out with the dinosaurs, but some developed such bones that worked as teeth would.
The 25 million-year-old bird’s skinny legs and bones showed that it definitely flew. That was a surprising find for some in the field because many expected that the difficulties of flying became overwhelming as the size of the bird increased.
Paleontologist Michael Habib of the University of Southern California told USA Today the find was "very exciting … It refutes some of the prior estimates of maximum size in seabirds."
Others disagreed with Kspeka’s assessment of the creature’s wing length. Katsufumi Sato, of the University of Tokyo, told USA Today by email that it was challenging to estimate wing length by estimating feather length.
Kspeka told the newspaper that he used several methods to determine possible wing lengths, and all came in over 20 feet.
The scientist was fascinated with the bird’s story, wondering why it died out just before modern humans came into being.
"They lasted more than 50 million years. That's phenomenally successful," Ksepka told USA Today. "And then they died out before we got to see them."
"If you could imagine the shadow this thing would've cast back in the day, 'awe-inspiring' and 'terror-inspiring' would be appropriate phrases," bird paleontologist Julia Clarke of the University of Texas, Austin, told USA Today.
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