Giant Elephant Bird Named Largest Bird Ever

Posted: Sep 28 2018, 6:04pm CDT | by , Updated: Sep 28 2018, 6:06pm CDT, in Latest Science News


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Giant Elephant Bird Named Largest Bird Ever
An artist's illustration of the giant elephant bird. Credit: Jaime Chirinos

Elephant birds roamed Madagascar and went extinct in the 17th century.

A 10 feet tall bird species that weighed up to 1,760 lbs has been awarded the title of worlds largest-ever bird.

Vorombe titan, which means “big bird” in Malagasy and Greek, is an elephant bird that lived in Madagascar during the Late Quaternary and went extinct in the 17th century. These giant flightless cousins of ostrich were previously known from two genera, Aepyornis and Mullerornis.

Researchers have analyzed hundreds of elephant bird bones from museums around the world to uncover the world's largest bird. In 1894, British scientist C.W. Andrews described an unusually large species of elephant bird, Aepyornis titan. But it was originally confused with another species of elephant bird, known as Aepyornis maximus.

A latest extensive analysis from Zoological Society of London reveals that titan bird was indeed a separate, distinct species. The shape and size of its bones are so different from all other elephant birds that it has also been placed in its own new genus Vorombe, which is an incredibly rare event.

“Elephant birds were the biggest of Madagascar's megafauna and arguably one of the most important in the islands evolutionary history – even more so than lemurs. This is because large-bodied animals have an enormous impact on the wider ecosystem they live in via controlling vegetation through eating plants, spreading biomass and dispersing seeds through defecation. Madagascar is still suffering the effects of the extinction of these birds today.” Lead Author at ZSL's Institute of Zoology, Dr. James Hansford said.

Researchers used a combination of advanced techniques in order to determine identity of titan bird and to solve a 150-year-old taxonomic knot that will help improve our understanding of enigmatic avian megafauna.

“Without an accurate understanding of past species diversity, we can't properly understand evolution or ecology in unique island systems such as Madagascar or reconstruct exactly what's been lost since human arrival on these islands,” said Co-Author Professor Samuel Turvey from ZSL. “Knowing the history of biodiversity loss is essential to determine how to conserve today's threatened species."

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/47" rel="author">Hira Bashir</a>
The latest discoveries in science are the passion of Hira Bashir (). With years of experience, she is able to spot the most interesting new achievements of scientists around the world and cover them in easy to understand reporting.




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