Extinct Elephant Bird Was The Ancestor of the Kiwi and the Largest Bird on Earth

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The question “which was the largest bird on Earth?” has made a lot of scientists argue for decades. However, this new study from the journal Royal Society Open Science might have ended the debates.

The largest bird to ever roam the Earth was the Vorombe titan, which once existed in Madagascar. It was almost 10 feet tall and could reach almost 1,800 pounds.

V. Titan was an elephant bird which lived 500,000 – 1 million years ago, explains the lead author of the study, James Hansford (Zoological Society of London):

“Elephant birds are a radiation of extinct, giant, flightless birds unique to the island of Madagascar. They are part of a group of birds which are called ratites, which include ostriches, emu, rhea, cassowaries and kiwi. Remarkably, it is the kiwi that are the closest living relatives to elephant birds today.”

After analysis of hundreds of bones from elephant birds from museums all over the world, scientists found that this group was spread into three genera and four different species.

The new genus name, Vorombe, was given due to the difference in bone size and shape. Hansford explained that the species previously called A. Titan is unique, and needs a separate genus name. In Malagasy language, Vorombe means “big bird,” so the title for this large bird became Vorombe Titan.

Extinct Megafauna To Help Conservation

Hansford explains that a peek into the past ecosystems from Madagascar are vital for today’s conservation efforts:

“Understanding the diversity of the recently extinct megafauna in Madagascar is critical in developing a natural baseline of the ecosystems of Madagascar. Using this information, we can begin to interpret the untouched environments, informing conservation and regeneration planning.”

He hopes that this study will inspire more researchers to look into the history of these birds, concluding that it is “incredible that we know less about the world’s largest-ever birds that were walking around just 1,000 years ago than we do many dinosaurs that have been extinct for millions of years!”

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Andre Blair s is the lead editor for Advocator.ca. He holds a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Toronto, and a Master of Science in Public Health (M.S.P.H.) from the School of Public Health, Department of Health Administration, at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Andre specializes in environmental health, but writes on a variety of issues.


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