Elephant bird mystery solved? Discovery may explain demise of world’s largest-ever birds


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Evaluation of bones from now-extinct elephant birds might shed new gentle on the destiny of the large fowls.

A crew of scientists led by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) studied skeletons of the large birds that have been found on the Indian Ocean island of Madagascar. The species of 10-foot-tall birds (often known as Aepyornis and Mullerornis) weighed as much as 1,100-pounds.

The bones have been present in 2009 on the website of Madagascar’s Christmas River. Reduce marks and fractures on the bones have been probably made by prehistoric hunters, in accordance with the specialists. By utilizing radiocarbon relationship, the scientists found that the birds have been killed round 10,500 years in the past.


The examine is important as a result of earlier analysis on lemur bones and different artifacts indicated that people first arrived in Madagascar 2,400 to four,000 years in the past. The butchered bones subsequently recommend that people reached the island a lot sooner than beforehand thought.

Elephant chook illustration (Credit score: Alain_Rasolo).

Scientists printed their findings within the journal Science Advances.

The brand new analysis additionally rekindles the talk about whether or not people prompted the extinction of the large chook, in accordance with Science. “We already know that Madagascar’s megafauna – elephant birds, hippos, large tortoises and large lemurs – grew to become extinct lower than 1,000 years in the past,” stated lead writer Dr. James Hansford of ZSL’s Institute of Zoology, in a press release. “There are a selection of theories about why this occurred, however the extent of human involvement hasn’t been clear.”


Certainly, the newest examine recommend that people might have co-existed with elephant birds for millennia. “Our analysis supplies proof of human exercise in Madagascar greater than 6,000 years sooner than beforehand suspected – which demonstrates radically totally different extinction concept is required to grasp the large biodiversity loss that has occurred on the island,” stated Hansford. “People appear to have coexisted with elephant birds and different now-extinct species for over 9,000 years, apparently with restricted destructive affect on biodiversity for many of this era, which gives new insights for conservation in the present day.”


Reduce marks on the Elephant chook bones (ZSL)

Nonetheless, there are nonetheless inquiries to be answered about Madagascar’s early people. “We all know that on the finish of the Ice Age, when people have been solely utilizing stone instruments, there have been a bunch of people that arrived on Madagascar,” stated the examine’s co-author Professor Patricia Wright of Stony Brook College, in a press release. “We have no idea the origin of those individuals and gained’t till we discover additional archaeological proof, however we all know there is no such thing as a proof of their genes in trendy populations. The query stays – who these individuals have been? And when and why did they disappear?”

The marsh the place the bones have been discovered contained numerous historical animal stays. Consultants speculate that the situation might have been a significant ‘kill website’ the place prehistoric people slaughtered their prey, however say that extra analysis is required earlier than this may be confirmed.


Earlier this yr, the Buffalo Museum of Science in Buffalo, N.Y. revealed that uncommon elephant chook egg in its assortment had been mislabeled for many years. The egg had erroneously been labeled as a mannequin.


The Christmas River dig website in Madagascar (Credit score: ZSL)

Archaeologists in Austria just lately uncovered a ugly ‘kill website’ the place Stone Age individuals slaughtered mammoths. The positioning, which was discovered throughout building of a brand new bypass in Drasenhofen on the Czech border, accommodates mammoth tusks and bones. The stays have been dated to between 18,000 and 28,000 years in the past.

Fox Information’ Stephen Sorace contributed to this text.

Observe James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers

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