A New Fossil Condor Honors its Argentinian Heritage in More Ways than One

A New Fossil Condor Honors its Argentinian Heritage in More Ways than One
Photo by Erik Hathaway / Unsplash

In December 2022, something that I’ve waited my whole life for finally happened. Argentina national soccer team, led by Lionel Messi, won the World Cup! I have diligently watched every World Cup since I was ~12 years old, only to face disappointment and heartbreak, but in 2022 that great victory finally occurred. This does not seem paleo-related, but the connection may surprise you!


A year later, in December 2023, a [study] came out describing a new fossil from the Pliocene of Argentina. The fossil was an almost complete right femur of a bird. Based on features of the bone, including the location of a pneumatic opening (an opening in the bone for the avian air sac system), the authors were able to identify the bone as a New World Vulture (Cathartidae). Other features allowed the authors to identify it as belonging to the genus Vultur, which only has 1 species in modern day (the Andean Condor, Vultur gryphus).

Figure 2A from the paper showing the femur of the new fossil bird.

Because the bone has some unique features, it is clearly a different species from the modern Andean Condor. Therefore the authors, led by Dr. Federico Degrange (an Argentinian paleontologist and fossil bird expert), named the new bird Vultur messii. And there’s the connection! A fellow fútbol fan, Federico named the new fossil after Messi to honor the World Cup victory of 2022 and to honor the heritage of the new bird.

Hopefully more of this enigmatic condor will be found in the future, and we’ll get a more complete picture of Messi’s Condor.

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