Elephant Bird Egg

The largest egg belonging to any known vertebrate--mammal, bird, fish, amphibian, dinosaur--is that of the giant Elephant bird, Aepyornis maximus.

This extinct flightless bird meandered through the forests of Madagascar up until the 16th or 17th century when a mixture of climate change and human interaction caused the long-necked animal to meet its end. There is virtually no fossil record between the Cretaceous and Pleistocene period on Madagascar, but it is believed the elephant birds were endemic to the island, probably originating during the mid-Cenozoic period. Because the island provided protection for its inhabitants from predators, birds and other animals could evolve to an enormous size. Despite its ferocious size, Aepyornis probably survived on a diet of fruits that grew in the tropical environment.

Although similar in appearance to the ostrich, the elephant bird’s closest living relative is the 18-inch tall kiwi, which is another ratite--a bird with a flat breastbone and no keel, rendering it unable to fly--only found in New Zealand. About ten species of elephant bird have been recorded. However, due to the centuries-old race to find the largest specimen and lack of cohesive research, the actual number of species is disputed.

Aepyornis maximus not only produced the largest egg, but it is the largest bird that ever lived with a height of ten feet and a weight of up to 1,000 pounds (compared to an ostrich that weighs 300 pounds). Its egg is 180 times bigger than a chicken egg and 7 times larger than an ostrich egg. Evidence has been found that humans utilized the elephant bird eggs for bowls and egg shells have been excavated near fire pits that suggest humans used the eggs to feed whole families.

This is an actual egg from Aepyornis maximus that measures 12-inches long next to an ostrich egg that is just 7-inches long.



Elephant Bird Egg
Aepyornis maximus
Pleistocene/Holocene
Madagascar

elephant_bird_diagram
Graphic Chart credit: weeklyworldnews.com