A seagull on steroids

Leave a comment

Fossil of ‘largest flying bird’ identified

The giant bird would have been an elegant flier, able to soar across the ancient ocean in search of food

The fossilised remains of the largest flying bird ever found have been identified by scientists.

This creature would have looked like a seagull on steroids – its wingspan was between 6.1 and 7.4m (20-24ft).

The find is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The 25m-year-old fossil was unearthed 30 years ago in South Carolina, but it has taken until now to identify that this is a new species.

Daniel Ksepka, curator of science at the Bruce Museum in Connecticut, said: “This fossil is remarkable both for the size, which we could only speculate on before the discovery, and for the preservation.

“The skull in particular is exquisite.

“And given the delicate nature of the bones… it is remarkable that the specimen made it to the bottom of the sea, became buried without being destroyed by scavengers, fossilised, and then was discovered before it was eroded or bulldozed away.”

The researchers believe this huge bird surpasses the previous recorder-holder, Argentavis magnificens – a condor-like bird from South America with an estimated wingspan of 5.7-6.1m (19-20ft) that lived about six million years ago.

The bird would have dwarfed our largest living birds – the California condor (left) and the albatross (right)


Scientists have called the new giant Pelagornis sandersi. They believe it would have been twice the size of the wandering albatross, the largest living bird.

Like the albatross, it was a seabird, spending most of its time swooping above the ocean, preying on fish and squid.

Despite its scale, it would have been an elegant flier.

Source: BBCNews

Shades of Jurassic Park

Leave a comment

David Attenborough backs £85m Jurassic coast theme park

Former quarry in Dorset lined up as site for Jurassica project showcasing prehistory of England’s south coast

The proposed site is within the 95-mile long Jurassic coast, a world heritage site because of its geological importance. Photograph: Graeme Robertson

An ambitious project to showcase the prehistory of the south coast of England, famous for its marine fossils from ammonites to giant sea reptiles, has attracted support from David Attenborough and Eden Project founder Tim Smit.

A former quarry on the Isle of Portland, Dorset, is being investigated as the site for the £85m Jurassica park for which the designer of the Shard building in London, Renzo Piano, has provided preliminary sketches of a domed glass and steel roof, according to the journalist behind the idea.

The site is within the 95-mile long Jurassic coast,a world heritage site because of its importance in understanding geological periods from 250m to 65m years ago.

Michael Hanlon, a science journalist, has made presentations to scientific leaders and businesses in a bid to raise interest and money for the project. For Hanlon, who was born and grew up in Dorset, “the heritage is really of the extraordinary marine fauna. It is the place where you can say science really began, where we suddenly realised we were living on a really old planet that used to be very different from what it is now.”

Read more

Read more


Early bird beat Archaeopteryx to worm by 10m years


The fossilised ‘Dawn bird’, Aurornis xui, lived 160m years ago and had downy feathers but was probably unable to fly

Aurornis xui ‘pushes Archaeopteryx off its perch’ as the oldest known member of the bird lineage. Photograph: Emiliano Troco

A prehistoric beast the size of a pheasant has become a contender for the title of oldest bird to stalk the Earth.

The small, feathered “Dawn” bird lived around 160m years ago, about 10m years before Archaeopteryx, which holds the official title of the earliest bird known to science.

The new species, which scientists have named Aurornis xui, had claws and a long tail, with front and hind legs similar to those of Archaeopteryx, but some features of its bones were more primitive. It measured 50cm from its beak to the tip of its tail.

Encased in sedimentary rock, the fossil preserved traces of downy feathers along the animal’s tail, neck and chest, but the absence of larger feathers suggests it was not able to fly.

When scientists reconstructed the evolutionary tree of similar beasts using measurements from their skeletons, A xui appeared on the bird lineage, but closer to the base of the tree than Archaeopteryx.

“It’s an important fossil,” said Gareth Dyke, a senior palaeontologist involved in the study at Southampton University. “Aurornis pushes Archaeopteryx off its perch as the oldest member of the bird lineage.”

Archaeopteryx holds a prized position in evolutionary history. The fossil, discovered in Germany in 1861, proved that modern birds evolved from dinosaurs, and was the first fossil to support Darwin’s theory of evolution, which had been published only two years earlier.

Scientists bought the remains from a local fossil dealer, who claimed they had been unearthed in Yaoluguo in western Liaoning, China. Photograph: Thierry Hubin/IRSNB

Researchers named the new species Aurornis xui because it marks the earliest days of the evolutionary path that led to modern birds. Aurornis combines aurora, the Latin for dawn, and ornis, the Greek for bird. The second part of the name, xui, honours Xu Xing, a Chinese palaeontologist, according to a report in Nature.

Read more

Read more


Leave a comment

Not many around these days…

The ones that are, look pretty much like this.

The ichthyosaurus lived about 250 million years ago, basically before the dinosaurs and up to their time.

The name ichthyosaurus means ‘fish lizard’, they were a land animal that migrated back to the sea. They were pretty much like today’s dolphins, mammals. Ichthyosaurs averaged 2–4 meters (7–13 ft) in length; some species bigger, others smaller. They were streamlined like the modern day tuna and therefore fast swimmers.

The first fossil was found in Wales about 1699.

%d bloggers like this: