The results indicate the bird - which could have rivalled some
light aeroplanes for size - would probably not have had the muscle
power to lift itself into the air from a standing take-off or even
maintain continuous flapping flight.
However, Argentavis certainly had all the makings of a
Its giant wings would have extracted the maximum energy from
rising air forced up by the slopes of the rocky Andes or the warming
atmosphere above the grassy pampas, the Argentine plains.
"Like an albatross or a hanglider, Argentavis needed a little
sloping surface; and he needed to run a bit, and headwind would have
helped. Using this trick he could take-off but after that he didn't
need to do much flapping of the wings," Professor Chatterjee said.
Writing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS),
the team adds: "Because the fossils of Argentavis are found from the
foothills of the Andes to the pampas, it is likely that it used
primarily slope-soaring over the windward slopes of the Andes and
thermal-soaring over the open pampas."
With its powerful beak and big clawed feet, Argentavis would
have made a fearsome predator, swooping down to snatch unsuspecting
The kori bustard (Ardeotis kori) has a claim to being the
heaviest modern flying bird at about 18kg (40lbs).
The wandering albatross (Diomedea exulans) is widely recognised
as the modern avian with the longest wingspan, at more than 3m
The biggest flying animals known to science were pterosaurs. The
flying reptiles that lived more than 65 million years ago had
wingspans exceeding 10m (30ft).
The biggest-known flying bird - Argentavis magnificens