Sierra Nevada albatross: biggest flying animal ever was bigger than snake and a tapeworm

Another fly in the ointment. Fewer than half of those living in the warm rainforests of Indonesia in pre-Columbian times had feathers in their feathers, research finds. Some were also venomous.

A gene mutation unique to birds gave some bird relatives the ability to fly without feathers, paleontologists report. The mutation apparently gave the scientists little trouble, because their way of measuring size showed giant birds such as the Sierra Nevada albatross — the world’s largest flying animal that lived during pre-Columbian times — living at no more than half an inch shorter than feathers.

These animals were also one of the first to have the ability to breed in different breeds or to pass on their genes. These three traits mean that if the importance of feathers for flight falls as a result of better understanding how genes work, many of the birds studied in the new study are likely to still belong to this race of large ancestors.

All these ornithomans were the offspring of a five-decade ecological race of flying reptiles that lived in Indonesia in the Cretaceous period from 200 million to 65 million years ago. The ancestral creatures grew up and died on the sea floor. Of course, with Earth’s current climate, we won’t ever get to revisit these wild pre-humans: Many of their ancestral populations perished during the last mass extinction 65 million years ago.

Bless us the fly. We’re making space — and flying — for gigantic creatures of the past.

Colossal flying reptile is largest known flying animal ever to live on the planet

Jason Bensing, University of Chicago

Sean Clark, University of Edinburgh

Chris France, University of Texas at Austin

Lydia Gannapel, University of Washington

Matthew Boston, Los Alamos National Laboratory

Micaela Burca, University of Geneva

Kyle Lowe, The Nature Conservancy

Eric Hage, C.S. Lewis College

Michael Krüger, Museum E. Tain, Louis L’Amour Foundation

Morten Kjaerup, Ph.D., The Royal Tyrrell Museum

Ole Ladottes, University of Cambridge

Thomas Dye, Dominion University

Sarah Driscoll, University of Chicago

Matthew Moate, Norfolk State University

Nancy Pollet, University of Oslo

Carlos Rosario, Royal Tyrrell Museum

Elena Sedlmayr, University of Queensland

Contact Katherine Boyd at [email protected]

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