Soaring above the world's oceans some 25 million years ago, the largest seabird ever to fly boasted a 21-foot (6.4-meter) wingspan. The ancient bird, dubbed Pelagornis sandersi, belonged to a family of now-extinct "toothed" birds.The discovery also shows that, for some ancient flying birds, bigger may have been better. (Related: "Largest Flying Bird Could Barely Get Off Ground, Fossils Show.").
Described for the first time in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the fossil bones of the big bird were uncovered just outside an airport in Charleston, South Carolina, in 1983. "A giant bird lands at an airport 25 million years too soon—it's kind of amusing," says study author Daniel Ksepka of North Carolina State University in Raleigh. "Maybe he should have just waited and landed on the new runway."