2023 Author: Adelina Croftoon | [email protected]. Last modified: 2023-05-24 12:05
Thousands of years ago, the island of Madagascar was inhabited by huge flightless birds, whose height was much higher than that of humans.
When their bones fell into the hands of scientists for the first time, these birds were named epyornis, and in everyday life they were most often called elephant birds.
Later, many other remains were discovered and it turned out that there were at least 15 species of epyornis, differing mainly in size.
But researchers recently discovered several bones that were found to belong to a new 16 species of Aepyornis and were the largest birds of all. Their height exceeded 3 meters, which is common for epyornis, but they had a very large weight, over 700 kg. Other types of epyornis weighed no more than 400 kg.
In addition to Madagascar, giant birds also lived in New Zealand, where they received the name moa, but with a growth similar to epyornis, moa were much lighter, not exceeding 250 kg.
Thus, the new Madagascar species was not the tallest, but a very massive and heavy bird that could deliver very strong blows with its powerful legs. Scientists have named a new species "Vorombe titan", which logically translates as "big bird".
It is curious that the remains of the "big bird" were discovered back in 1894, but then they were attributed to the already discovered species of the epyornis Aepyornis maximus, and the unusually massive size of the bones was attributed to the "anomaly of an individual individual." But recently, British researchers from the Zoological Society of London re-examined these bones, compared them with the bones of other epyornis and came to the conclusion that this is not an anomaly, but a full-fledged separate species.
According to lead researcher James Hansforth, elephants were the largest and most important species of Madagascar's megafauna, even more important than lemurs because they had a huge impact on the island's ecology.
The nature of Madagascar still suffers from the extinction of elephant birds, because epyornis helped the spread of plants around the island, eating fruits and "scattering" seeds in new places with droppings.
The species "Vorombe titan" became extinct about a thousand years ago, like the rest of the epyornis, it was exterminated by people. But some separate groups of elephant birds were found on the island even in the 17th century. There are separate reports that the last epyornis still live in the deep forest wilds of Madagascar, but most likely this is just a fiction.
The closest relatives of the epyornis at this time are, surprisingly, New Zealand kiwi, no larger than a chicken. But this is just an evolutionary misunderstanding, kiwis were much larger thousands of years ago.