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What wiped out the world's largest bird ?


Posted on Thursday, 13 September, 2018 | Comment icon 10 comments

The eggs of the elephant bird were truly gigantic. Image Credit: CC BY-SA 3.0 FunkMonk
The elephant bird, along with some of Madagascar's other megafauna, went extinct around 1,000 years ago.
These huge flightless birds, which resembled giant ostriches, were unique to the island and had thrived there until their untimely disappearance somewhere around 1000-1200 AD.

While the exact cause of their demise has long remained a topic of debate among researchers, it is generally believed that they were hunted to extinction by the first human settlers on the island.

Now though, the discovery of butchered bones dating back 10,500 years has rekindled the debate while pushing back the arrival date of the island's human inhabitants by some 8,000 years.

The find is particularly important because it suggests that humans lived alongside the elephant bird for several thousand years and that the early settlers did not wipe them out as is commonly believed.

Instead, it appears as though it wasn't until relatively recently that the human population of Madagascar hunted the birds to extinction.

According to palaeobiologist David Burney of the National Tropical Botanical Garden in Hawaii, the findings "fly in the face of all that we thought we knew about human arrival in Madagascar."

Source: Science Magazine | Comments (10)

Tags: Madagascar, Elephant Bird

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #1 Posted by TripGun on 13 September, 2018, 13:58
Disease seems likely.
Comment icon #2 Posted by Seti42 on 13 September, 2018, 14:12
My guess? Paranoia. For a while, the early humans just hunted them with no particular prejudice. Later on, the elephant birds were likely maligned...Much like the wolf was by Europeans. Remember, people nearly hunted wolves to extinction in most of Europe and in North America when the Europeans arrived. All it probably took was a death or an attack, some over-zealous tribal leaders throwing blame, and a fearful population. Then BAM! mass murder of a species for no real reason.
Comment icon #3 Posted by Piney on 13 September, 2018, 14:41
Hunter-gather's usually don't have that mentality though because they don't have a ruling religious class. Just spiritual advisors.
Comment icon #4 Posted by TonopahRick on 13 September, 2018, 15:19
The Colonel?
Comment icon #5 Posted by third_eye on 13 September, 2018, 15:35
I hope it wasn't one of Elvis' movie contract ... ~
Comment icon #6 Posted by FurriesRock on 13 September, 2018, 17:10
A huge bird makes an easy target. I'm thinking lazy hunters trying to feed a large population of stupid people hunted it to extinction before, like most groups in ancient Africa, resorting to warfare and cannibalism to feed their population.
Comment icon #7 Posted by Jon the frog on 14 September, 2018, 15:03
Population growth causing more hunting pressure probably...we don't know the remaining population sixat the end, maybe it just came down slowly by hunting until the population was not big enough to sustain itself.
Comment icon #8 Posted by Sameerr on 15 September, 2018, 16:38
The greatest Sir David Attenborough said that the early human inhabitants on the island stole the birds eggs and there was no fossil evidence of humans battling with this giant bird.
Comment icon #9 Posted by oldrover on 15 September, 2018, 17:38
At the risk of being lynched; David Attenborough is not a definitive source of information. No popular science reporting is. I'm not saying he's wrong, just that you (one) need to consult the source material.
Comment icon #10 Posted by Carnoferox on 15 September, 2018, 19:47
Well now there is evidence of elephant birds being hunted and butchered. There are cutting tool marks on leg bones as well as fractures from an impact, possibly a crippling blow. http://advances.sciencemag.org/content/4/9/eaat6925


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