SOURCE: National Evolutionary Synthesis Center, news release, July 7, 2014
MONDAY, July 7, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Scientists have identified the remains of an extinct bird that may have been the largest ever to fly Earth's skies.
The fossilized remains indicate that the bird -- called Pelagornis sandersi -- had a wingspan of almost 24 feet and was twice as big as the largest flying bird today, the Royal Albatross.
The ancient bird had long, slender wings that helped it remain in the air for long distances without having to flap, according to the authors of the study published online this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
It's believed that P. sandersi lived 25 million to 28 million years ago, after the dinosaurs were gone but before humans appeared. The fossil was first unearthed in 1983 near Charleston, S.C., during excavations for a new terminal at the city's international airport.
The specimen -- which included numerous wing and leg bones and complete skull -- was so large that it had to be removed using a backhoe.
"The upper wing bone alone was longer than my arm," Dan Ksepka, of the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center in Durham, N.C., said in a center news release.
The bird's remains are now on display at the Charleston Museum.
PBS has more about birds.