Thursday, March 21, 2013

Elephant Bird

Elephant Bird
"Elephant Bird" is the name given to members of the Aepyornithidae Family. These gigantic, flightless Ratites lived on Madagascar, and all are extinct. Though they are distant relatives to Ostriches, it is believed that their ancestors branched off from those birds as far back as 85 million years ago.

There were half a dozen different Elephant Bird species, and all were quite large-- some stood over 10ft tall! They were even an inspiration for Marco Polo's fantastical tales of the legendary Roc. They were similar in size to the Moa of New Zealand, but were much heavier. The Elephant Birds could reach 900lbs, while the Moa were only around 550.

It is difficult to get the full evolutionary history of the Elephant Birds, because Madagascar is a rainforested island, and fossils do not do well in such conditions. We do know that they survived into modern times, and may have still been around in the 17th century based on reports. Semi-fossilized eggs have also been located, and some even have young birds still inside them!

Humans were most likely the culprits in the extinction of the Elephant Birds. We know that they were hunted for many years, as evidenced by tool marks on bones. Their eggs were also consumed. They may also have died out with help from diseases brought over by introduced birds like chickens.

Status : Extinct since 17th Century, possibly earlier
Location : Madagascar
Size : Height up to 10ft (3m), Weight up to 900lbs (408kg)
Classification : Phylum : Chordata -- Class : Aves -- Order : †Aepyornithiformes
Family : †Aepyornithidae
Image : Cryptomundo

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