Meet the Real ‘Big Bird’

SCIENCE

Today’s biggest flier, the royal albatross, wouldn’t have looked so big compared to Pelagornis sandersi, a giant flying seabird that lived some 25 million years ago and belonged to a family of now-extinct “toothed” birds. (Nat Geo Kids)

Read about other “flying monsters” here.

Teachers, scroll all the way down for a short list of key resources in our “Teachers’ Toolkit.”

Nat Geo is going to have to update this beautiful diagram! The wingspan of Pelagornis chilensis' cousin, Pelagornis sandersi, just clocked in at 6.4 meterS (21-feet). Illustration by Shizuka Aoki, National Geographic

Nat Geo is going to have to update this beautiful diagram! The wingspan of Pelagornis chilensis‘ cousin, Pelagornis sandersi, just clocked in at 6.4 meters (21 feet).
Illustration by Shizuka Aoki, National Geographic

Discussion Ideas

 

 

  • Was Pelagornis sandersi as big as a pterosaur?

 

What do you think these jaws chomped into, 25 million years ago? Illustration by Jaime A Headden, courtesy Wikimedia. CC-BY-3.0

What do you think these jaws chomped into, 25 million years ago?
Illustration by Jaime A Headden, courtesy Wikimedia. CC-BY-3.0

  • Take a look at this gorgeous illustration of the skull of Pelagornis sandersi. Why do you think paleontologists say these birds have “pseudo-teeth” and not “teeth”? Pseudo means “almost, but not quite.”
  • What do you think those jaws chomped into, 25 million years ago? (Hint: What do the seabirds of today eat?)
    • Fish! Those pointy pseudoteeth probably helped the soaring giant hang on to the slippery, squirmy fish (or fishy cousins) of the Miocene.

 

TEACHERS TOOLKIT

Nat Geo Kids: World’s biggest flying seabird lived 25 million years ago

Nat Geo collection: Flying Monsters 3D Education

Nat Geo glossary:
pelagic
paleontologist
pterosaur
Miocene

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