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Scientists Discover Remains of 'Largest Flying Bird'

Update Date: Jul 08, 2014 02:35 PM EDT

Researchers have found the fossilized remains of the largest flying bird ever, according to a new study.

The 25m-year-old fossil was unearthed 30 years ago in South Carolina but scientists recently identified it as a new species. 

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

"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."

According to researchers, 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, BBC reported.

Researchers have dubbed this new giant Pelagornis sandersi. They believe that Pelagornis sandersi would have been twice the size of the wandering albatross - the largest living bird. 

Like albatross, it was also a seabird speeding most of its time swooping above the ocean looking for the prey. 

"It would have been fast and very efficient," said Dr Ksepka.

"Computer models suggest that it had high lift-to-drag ratios, which would allow it to glide for a very long distance for every unit of altitude it could attain.

"It could likely glide at speeds over 10m per second - faster than the human world record for the 100m dash."

The study describing the fossil is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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