Today at Light Future Art, we’re going to be talking about an extinct animal that only disappeared about 1,000 years ago: the elephant bird! Here are some interesting fun facts that you might not know about this gigantic bird.
1. The elephant bird stood anywhere from 10 to 12 feet high once fully grown and weighed about 1,000 pounds.
2. The elephant bird’s scientific name is quite literal in this case. Aepyornis is Greek for “tall bird”. Yes, they certainly were tall!
3. Marco Polo mentioned seeing an elephant bird in his account of his travels to Asia. Historians used to believe that he was writing about the roc, a mythic bird creature, but it’s actually more likely that he saw an elephant bird before they went extinct. To read more about the real origins of mythical creatures, check out this blog post!
4. The elephant bird was most likely a herbivore, eating mostly fruits. Some of the elephant bird’s closest living relatives have a fruit-based diet, and it stands to reason that on Madagascar, where fruit grows in abundance, the elephant bird could have done the same.
5. The extinction of the elephant bird was most likely caused by, to nobody’s surprise, humans. The native people of Madagascar had lived side-by-side with elephant birds for hundreds of years and there was no problem, yet the species died out shortly after European settlement on the island. The most likely direct cause of extinction was probably the Europeans taking their eggs as a food source.
6. Just like other large, flightless birds, or exceptionally large or exceptionally small animals in general, the elephant bird lived in a secluded island environment. They have only been found to have existed in Madagascar.
7. Studies of the elephant bird’s skull shows that their eyes were most accustomed to low light and that they could have been nocturnal. They also probably had a great sense of smell and found their food through scent rather than sight.
8. The elephant bird is one of the species with plans for “de-extinction”, or bringing them back to life using DNA from their closest living relatives, in this case, the kiwi bird. They are a good candidate for such a project because they went extinct fairly recently and we know about their relationship to their environment. However, such a project is unlikely to yield much success in the near future.
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