Elephant Birds and thoughts on extinction

Christie's specialist James Hyslop holds a chicken egg next to a pre-17th century, sub-fossilised Elephant Bird egg in London

Were you amazed and fascinated by the news yesterday that a partly-fossilized Elephant Bird was sold for more than 66,000 pounds at Christie’s? Now I was an avid visitor of my local science museum as a kid and I had never heard of an Elephant Bird, so I looked it up and realized that it was once the world’s biggest bird, before Madagascar natives hunted it into extinction.

I don’t know how the Elephant Bird escaped my attention since I was fascinated with the Dodo as a kid, but the eggs are HUUUGE! We’re talking about 200 times a chicken’s egg here, easily several ostrich eggs here, and my husband agrees with me that a newborn would probably fit in that egg too.

I then found this very interesting article here that talks about how the Elephant Bird became extinct over 300 years ago (1700 A.D.) and how Marco Polo speculates that it inspired the Arabic myths about the Giant Roc. Actually, what I was also thinking was that maybe the Elephant Bird was the last link to dinosaurs. I mean we now know that dinosaurs had feathers and are related to birds, so maybe they aren’t the leathery behemoths we all imagined, but really giant birds.

Also, you know we always had this narrative of the colonialists causing animal extinction where they go, and worship this myth of the noble innocent natives living in harmony with Nature’s balance. Well… if you look at this case, the natives of Madagascar were the sole cause of the Elephant Bird’s extinction since it was pretty much nearly vanished by the time anyone foreign stepped foot on shore.

So, I dunno, maybe we can stop drawing all these righteous lines in the sand. All of Mankind is basically a scourge on Mother Earth’s resources. Or maybe it’s just part of Earth’s history that animals go extinct, and one day we will too.

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Filed under Cool Stuff, Uncategorized, Waking Moments

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