The aerodynamics of Argentavis, the world's largest flying bird from the Miocene of Argentina

Sankar Chatterjee, R. Jack Templin, Kenneth E. Campbell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Scopus citations

Abstract

We calculate the flight performance of the gigantic volant bird Argentavis magnificens from the upper Miocene (≈6 million years ago) of Argentina using a computer simulation model. Argentavis was probably too large (mass ≈70 kg) to be capable of continuous flapping flight or standing takeoff under its own muscle power. Like extant condors and vultures, Argentavis would have extracted energy from the atmosphere for flight, relying on thermals present on the Argentinean pampas to provide power for soaring, and it probably used slope soaring over the windward slopes of the Andes. It was an excellent glider, with a gliding angle close to 3° and a cruising speed of 67 kph. Argentavis could take off by running downhill, or by launching from a perch to pick up flight speed. Other means of takeoff remain problematic.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)12398-12403
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Volume104
Issue number30
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 24 2007

Keywords

  • Flight performance
  • Pampas
  • Predatory bird
  • Slope soaring
  • Thermal soaring

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