The Elephant bird, Latin name Aepyornis Maximus, was the largest bird ever to have lived upon the Earth. As a species it had existed for over 60 million years and was found only on the island of Madagascar. It only became extinct in the 1700s after the arrival of European colonists onto the island.
It was a flightless bird related to the ostrich and the emu. With its huge legs and talon like claws it would have looked a fearsome sight for the new arrivals, especially as it stood nearly 10 feet (3 metres) high when fully grown. It had small head atop a long neck and a broad spear like beak. Fortunately for the colonists and unfortunately for the Elephant bird, it was a vegetarian. Having no natural predators it showed no fear to men on their arrival and so was easy to hunt. This soon brought about its demise.
Its body was covered in bristling, hair like feathers, very similar to that of an emu and could weigh in at over 1000lbs (450Kg). The eggs of the Elephant bird were an especially attractive prize. Being almost one hundred times larger than a chicken egg they were sought after not just to make a tasty meal, but also as curios for the sailors and explorers that came across them. The eggs were approximately three feet (one metre) in circumference and had a length of thirteen inches (34 cm). It is easy to understand why they were so highly sought after.
It has been suggested in recent years that the Elephant bird may yet have a chance of living again. New technologies have allowed DNA mapping to be conducted on eggs and egg shell in particular. Genetic material has been extracted from a shell that was over 19,000 years old so it brings hope to the Elephant bird. Researchers from the Murdoch University in Perth, Australia are undergoing experiments to see if viable material can be extracted from the Elephant birds egg shells. If enough usable material can be found then the DNA will be inserted into a live emu eggs embryo. The Elephant bird may once again be astounding us with its size sometime soon. Just don’t expect to see it’s eggs in a supermarket near you anytime soon.