Elephant bird (†Aepyornis maximus Hilaire, ). Class: Aves. Clade: Novaeratitae. Order: †Aepyornithiformes. Family: †Aepyornithidae. Time period: They. The eggs of the Aepyornis, also known as the elephant bird, were a highly The remains of Aepyornis maximus, a species of elephant bird that. Brief summary. No one has contributed a brief summary to this page yet. Explore what EOL knows about Aepyornis maximus. Add a brief summary to this page.

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Elephant birds are members of the aepjornis ratite family Aepyornithidaemade up of large to enormous flightless birds that once lived on the island of Madagascar. They became extinctperhaps around — CE, for reasons that are unclear, although human maxlmus is the suspected cause. Elephant birds comprised the genera MullerornisVorombe and Aepyornis. While they were in close geographical proximity to the ostrichtheir closest living relatives are kiwi[2] suggesting that ratites did not diversify by vicariance during the breakup of Gondwana but instead evolved from ancestors that dispersed more recently by flying.

Aepyornis – Wikipedia

Elephant birds have been extinct since at least the 17th century. These accounts are today believed to describe elephant birds. Between and European travelers in Madagascar saw giant eggs and egg shells. In the French Academy of Sciences received three eggs and some bone fragments. Four species are usually accepted in the genus Aepyornis today, [18] but the validity of some is disputed, with numerous authors treating them all in just one species, A.

Up to three species are generally included in Mullerornis. Several ratites outside of Madagascar have been posited as “aepyornithid”-like and could potentially make this clade considerably more speciose. Aepyornis maximus is commonly known as the ‘elephant bird’, a term that apparently originated from Marco Polo ‘s account of the rukh inalthough he was apparently referring to an eagle-like bird strong enough to “seize an elephant with its talons”.

The legend of the roc could also have originated from sightings of such a giant subfossil eagle related to the African crowned eaglewhich has been described in the genus Stephanoaetus from Madagascar, [24] being large enough to carry off large primates; today, lemurs still retain a fear of aerial predators such as these.

Another might be the perception of ratites retaining neotenic features and thus being mistaken for enormous chicks of a presumably more massive bird.

The ancient Malagasy name for the bird is vorompatrameaning “bird of the Ampatres”. The Ampatres are today known as the Androy region of southern Madagascar. Like the ostrichrheacassowaryemukiwi and extinct moaMullerornis and Aepyornis were ratites; they could not fly, and their breast bones had no keel.

Because Madagascar and Africa separated before the ratite lineage arose, [25] Aepyornis has been thought to have dispersed and become flightless and gigantic in situ. More recently, it has been deduced from DNA sequence comparisons that the closest living relatives of elephant birds are New Zealand kiwi. The existence of possible flying palaeognaths in the Miocene such as Proapteryx further supports the view that ratites did not diversify in response to vicariance.


Gondwana broke apart in the Cretaceous and their phylogenetic tree does not match the process of continental drift. Claims of findings of “aepyornithid” egg remains on the eastern Canary Islandsif valid, would represent a major biogeographical enigma.

Two wepyornis eggs have been found in dune deposits in southern Western Australiaone in the s the Scott River egg and one in the Cervantes egg ; both have been identified as Aepyornis maximus rather than Genyornis. It is hypothesized that the eggs floated from Madagascar to Australia on the Antarctic Circumpolar Current. Evidence supporting this is the finding of two fresh penguin eggs that washed ashore on Western Australia but originated in the Kerguelen Islandsand an ostrich Struthio camelus egg found floating in the Timor Sea in the early s.

Examination of brain endocasts maxius shown that that both A. The optic lobes of Mullerornis were also reduced, but to a lesser degree, suggestive of a nocturnal or crepuscular lifestyle.

Because there is no rainforest fossil record in Madagascar, it is not known for certain if there were species adapted to dense forest dwelling, like the cassowary in Australia and New Guinea today. However, some rainforest fruits with thick, highly sculptured endocarpssuch as that of the currently undispersed and highly threatened forest coconut palm Voanioala gerardiimay have been adapted for passage through ratite guts, and the fruit of some palm species are indeed dark bluish purple e.

Ravenea louvelii and Satranala decussilvaejust like many cassowary-dispersed fruits. Occasionally subfossil eggs are found intact. The specimen is intact and jaximus the skeleton of the aepylrnis bird. There is also an intact specimen of an elephant bird’s egg contrasted with the eggs from other bird species, including a hummingbird’s on display at the Delaware Museum of Natural Historyjust outside Wilmington, DelawareUS, and another in the Maxximus History Museum, London.

The Melbourne Museum has two Aepyornis eggs. In it was subjected to radiological examination, which revealed no traces of embryonic material. A eapyornis, side- blown Aepyornis egg was acquired at a later date.

The Western Foundation of Vertebrate Zoologywith one of the world’s largest collections of avian eggs, has seven Aepyornis egg specimens. In the collections of the department of geology at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago there is a complete, side-blown egg collected, in aboutby Rev. In Aprilthe Buffalo Museum of Science discovered that a giant, cream-colored egg, measuring 12 inches in length and 28 inches in circumference, and weighing over three pounds, that staff had long thought was just a model, was actually an “elephant bird” egg after it was radiographed.

It is widely believed that the extinction of Aepyornis was a result of human activity.

Giant, Intact Egg of the Extinct Elephant Bird Found in Buffalo Museum

The birds were initially widespread, occurring from the northern to the southern tip of Madagascar. There is indeed evidence that they were hunted and their preferred habitats destroyed. Eggs may have been particularly vulnerable. The exact time period when they died out is also not certain; tales of these giant birds may have persisted for centuries in folk memory.


An alternative theory is that the extinction was a secondary effect of human impact resulting from transfer of hyperdiseases from human commensals such as chickens and guineafowl. The bones of these domesticated fowl have been found in subfossil sites in the island MacPhee and Marx, Recently human tool marks have been found on elephant bird bones dating to approximately 10, BC.

naximus This not only vastly extends the range of human existence on Madagascar’s prehistoric past, but suggests a more complex relationship between these birds and human beings and their eventual extinction, as they apparently coexisted for a massive period of time. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Elephant birds Temporal range: Aepyornithidae and a new identity for the world’s largest bird”.

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Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Museum of Natural History. Pescott, ‘Collections of a Century: Western Foundation of Vertebrate Zoology. Retrieved 24 April Retrieved 16 June Maaximus Stolen Bacillus and Other Incidents.

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The elephant bird: Madagascar’s extinct giant birds are considered the largest to have ever lived

Archived from the original on Retrieved 21 Jan Brands aSheila Aug 14, Retrieved Feb 4, Grzimek’s Animal Life Encyclopedia. Dransfield, John; Beentje, Henk The Palms of Madagascar. Falconiformes from the deposits of Ampasambazimba”.

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The elephant bird: Madagascar’s extinct giant birds are considered the largest to have ever lived

Geological Society of America. Avibase, the World Bird Database. Retrieved 4 Feb Insul Madagascar, sonsten S.

Pearson, Mike Parker; Godden, K. In search of the Red Slave: Shipwreck and Captivity in Madagascar. Franz; Rothe, Peter Molecular Biology and Evolution.