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7 Facts about elephant birds that lived in Madagascar

The elephant bird is the largest ever bird to have lived. They are known to have become extinct nearly 43,000 years ago but continue to be researched upon by several researchers across the globe. Although we are not sure about how they became extinct, we suspect the prehistoric humans did it. In much evidence, it is found that these birds were hunted and butchered for food. It is more likely that they got killed for the same reason. In much suggestive evidence, it is also probable that humans may have coexisted with this giant bird species until they went extinct. So, it would have been a completely different world back then for sure. 

Elephant birds seem to have been a common sight in Madagascar during the prehistoric era. These birds were nearly half a tonne and as tall as 3 meters. Their eggs were also as much as 10 kgs at once. Naturally, they were even more significant than the dinosaurs. Although there are several theories about what may have happened, the reality seems blurry. For now, here are some essential facts to know about the giant elephant birds in Madagascar. 

Vorombe titan – one of the 3 genera of elephant birds
  1. It was as tall as an elephant 

Although the elephant bird is named after elephants, its size was far from that. It nowhere resembled an elephant except for its height. The 13 feet tall birds weighed nearly 3,000 to 4,000 pounds at once. However, the Asian elephant birds weighed even more. This is how we can say that they were the most enormous birds to have ever lived. 

  1. Lived on the island of Madagascar

The elephant birds were generally restricted to the Island of Madagascar in Africa. This type of habitat served it best because it was exposed to enough lush trees, tropical vegetation and even sufficient comfort for water. The shelter was also not such a problem because everything they needed was here. That is why Madagascar served them best. 

Kiwi bird
  1. They are relatives to the flightless kiwi birds

For several generations, paleontologists were under the notion that rarities were relatives of other ratites. This meant that these birds were generally relatives to the Moa Of New Zealand. But later, when the genetic analysis took place, it was found that Kiwi was the closest relatives of these species. After careful research, it was evident that such a thing was true. 

  1. Marco Polo may have seen elephant birds

Marco Polo, having seen a giant elephant bird during his travelling years, has been called a complex situation for several years. This happened in 1298 when the famous Italian Traveller would expedite to different places. Many scholars thought that Polo merely described a rukh or roc, a mysterious monster that looked like an eagle. But now that we study the elephant bird and its giant, we are closer to believing what Polo saw during those days. 

  1. It may have survived on fruits

When you take a look at one elephant bird, you are closer to believing that it may have eaten other animals or preyed on them timely in Madagascar and its fierce jungles. But it is only when you look closely that you realise they had an undying love for eating fruits. During those times, the tropical climate was such that Madagascar grew several fruits in abundance there. As such, they may have survived on fruits of different flavours. Studies also suggest that elephant birds showcase a fruity diet. 

There’s no evidence that humans even ate their eggs – but one of them would make an omelet for 30 people. 🙂
  1. We may be the ones to blame

Suddenly, how do you think a giant living bird went extinct after humans came to being? In numerous theories, you may have observed elephant birds being hunted and butchered by humans for food and survival. As such, we may have used their flesh and meat to quench our hunger pangs from time to time. What do you think? 

  1. Their height resemble thunderbird

We may have often heard of Aepyornis birds that were quite heavy. But they weren’t the tallest except Thunderbirds. When you look at elephant birds, you instantly think of thunderbirds for their height. Since some thunderbirds could go up to nearly 12feet, there is good reason to believe they were that young. 

Aepyornis maximus
The bottom line 

Although humans could have been a primary reason for the extinction of elephant birds, we also believe that climate change majorly contributed to it. Maybe the efforts of farming and habitat destruction were also significant reasons for this to happen. We are also unable to detect whether humans did exist some 10,500 to 2,000 years ago. So, we may be far from trying to map out the traces of the first Madagascarians. Let us hope that our researchers and expert scientists can do it while there is sufficient time. Till then, do not keep waiting. Make sure you read more about them to understand more about these giant elephant birds.

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