In the ’80s, paleontologists from the University of California Riverside visited Seymour Island, part of a chain of islands in the Antarctic Peninsula. They took many fossils back home, including the foot bone and partial jaw bone belonging to two prehistoric birds.
For decades, the fossils were exposed in a museum of the University of California Berkeley, until a graduate student called Peter Kloess started inspecting them closer five years ago.
In a study posted earlier this week in the journal “Scientific Reports,” Kloess revealed that the birds are pelagornithids, a group of predators that habited the Earth’s southern oceanic region for more than 70 million years. They are known as bony-toothed” birds due to their sharp teeth and long beaks, which helped them grab various sea animals and eat them with ease.
The birds were gigantic, as their wingspans reached nearly 6.4 meters. The specific individuals that the found fossils originate from may have been the largest of its kind, the study says.
The researchers analyzed the fossils’ sizes and other various measurements and managed to figure out the rest of the animal’s size.
The foot bone exemplar belonged to “the largest specimen is known for the entire extinct group of pelagornithids,” and the jaw bone one was probably “as big, if not bigger, than the largest known skeletons of the bony-toothed bird group.”
The study said that the Antarctic fossils likely belong to some of the largest volant birds that ever lived, which is very impressive.
Kloess and his colleagues figured out that the foot bone is from 50 million years ago, while the jaw bone is about 40 million years old. That is solid proof that the birds emerged during the Cenozoic Era after an asteroid struck our planet and wiped out nearly all dinosaurs.