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Palaeontology

What wiped out the world's largest bird ?

By T.K. Randall
September 13, 2018 · Comment icon 13 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 (13)




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Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #4 Posted by TonopahRick 6 years ago
The Colonel?
Comment icon #5 Posted by third_eye 6 years ago
I hope it wasn't one of Elvis' movie contract ... ~
Comment icon #6 Posted by FurriesRock 6 years ago
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 6 years ago
Population growth causing more hunting pressure probably...we don't know the remaining population six at 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 6 years ago
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 6 years ago
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 6 years ago
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  
Comment icon #11 Posted by DanL 6 years ago
The American Buffalo survived for thousands of years with the Native Americans. Suddenly in just a short period they were almost wiped out by a new culture with improved methods. What probably wiped out the Elephant Bird was not the hunting of the bird itself rather the hunting of its eggs and chicks as humans found better ways to harvest that food source. There is also the possibility of an improved weapon like the invention of the bow and arrow or the atlatl.
Comment icon #12 Posted by Myles 6 years ago
I'm guessing you don't have much interest in how primitive people survived.   Hunting an easy to kill bird instead of a hard to kill animal is not lazy.   Opportunistic is more of what it is.    
Comment icon #13 Posted by kobolds 6 years ago
human and their bottomless pit


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