Elephant Bird Eggshell Fragment
Please Note: This item is in very short supply and it is uncertain whether we shall have it again once it is sold out. Please limit your purchase to one (1) specimen per household in order to share with others. Thank you!
"So why did the Elephant Bird disappear? I suspect it was these.... its eggs. People may not have been able to tackle an adult bird but they could take its eggs which were a huge source of nourishment." ~ Sir David Attenborough, Attenborough and The Giant Egg, 2011
The Elephant Bird was the largest member of an extinct family of flightless birds native to the island of Madagascar. As some individuals stood nearly 10 feet tall (3m) and weighed upwards of 1,100 pounds (500 kg), it should come as no surprise that these massive birds also laid the largest eggs of any known bird species, with volumes approaching 1.9 gallons (7L).
Above: Hans examining larger Elephant Bird Eggshell fragments used in the making of the Fourth Edition of the Mini Museum.
Such imposing figures may conjure ideas of an enormous ostrich or even the savage "terror bird" of the late Paleocene, but researchers believe that these giants were more like their distant (and much, much smaller) cousins, the kiwi, slowly moving through the forests of the fourth largest island on the planet for millennia until their extinction approximately 1200 years ago.
This specimen is a fragment of an Elephant Bird Eggshell obtained from a private collection. Each fragment is unique. They vary in size and shape. As pictured, the eggshell is housed in a small acrylic specimen jar which is housed within a glass-topped riker display case. The case measures 4"x3"x1". A small information card is also included.
Above: Elephant Bird Eggshell Fragments measuring roughly 1" (2.5cm) square.
More About the Elephant Bird
Aepyornis, popularly known as the Elephant Bird, was the largest member of an extinct family of flightless birds native to the island of Madagascar. Some individuals stood nearly 10 feet tall (3m) and weighed upwards of 1,100 pounds (500 kg).
Elephant-bird eggs outsize any other bird eggs known, with volumes approaching 1.9 gallons (7L). At 160 times that of an average chicken, these are the heftiest eggs of any vertebrate, including dinosaurs.
Such imposing figures may conjure ideas of an enormous ostrich or even the savage "terror bird" of the late Paleocene, but researchers believe that these giants were more like their distant (and much, much smaller) cousins, the kiwi. Given their physical bulk, scientists believe they moved slowly through the forests of Madagascar, browsing and splitting tough fruits with their heavy, pointed bills, until their extinction approximately 1200 years ago.
Above: Nesting Aepyornis illustration, Scientific American Supplement No. 1308, January 26th, 1901 (Colorization by Mini Museum)
Coastal concentrations of Elephant Bird eggs raise the possibility that Aepyornis nested communally. Eggs and juvenile elephant birds may have been vulnerable to now extinct predators, such as giant fossa or the Malagasy crowned eagle. Yet given their size, adults likely had little to worry about from other creatures—except, perhaps, human beings.
One common theory for the disappearance of elephant birds is the arrival of humans in Madagascar some 2,000 years ago. Fragments of elephant-bird eggs have been found in archaeological sites; some elephant-bird bones show the scoring of knives. Some scientists question this hypothesis, suggesting such evidence for human hunting of elephant birds is sparse, but it would be difficult to question the nutritional value of such an enormous egg.
Above: Aepyornis Egg Comparison, Scientific American Supplement No. 1308, January 26th, 1901
The agent or agents of extinction for the elephant bird aren’t entirely known; neither is the exact period of their disappearance. In 1658, a French colonial governor of Madagascar, Etienne de Flacourt, made an intriguing reference to an enormous bird, the vouropatra, inhabiting remote portions of southern Madagascar, which suggests that at least one species of Aepyornis maybe survived a bit longer.
"A large bird, called the 'vouropatra' haunts the Ampatres. It lays eggs like the ostriches; but in the loneliest places so that the people of these places may not take them."