A “Great Elephant Bird” Egg
Lot 2108
A “Great Elephant Bird” Egg
Sold for US$ 39,435 inc. premium

Natural History

11 Apr 2006, 13:00 EDT

New York

Lot Details
A “Great Elephant Bird” Egg
A “Great Elephant Bird” Egg
Aepyorni maximus
Holocene Epoch
Madagascar

This amazing eggshell belongs to the Great Elephant Bird of Madagascar, Aepyornis maximus. It was a giant, flightless bird characterized by thick, hearty legs and vestigial wings. While its external appearance can never be confirmed, this immense creature may have resembled a ponderous ostrich in life. Analyses of complete preserved skeletal specimens indicate that these birds may have reached heights in excess of 10 feet.

This rare specimen is beautifully preserved and free from distortion. The ivory patina surface exhibits only the slightest abrasion from weathering, and its overall condition is excellent. The organic properties of the shell appear to be intact. No mineralization or impurities are visible, despite its having been buried for a considerable time.

Analysis of Aepyornis maximus specimens of similar dimensions suggests that when first laid, the egg may have held the equivalent of 8 quarts. This volume roughly equals that of 170 chicken eggs, weighing as much as 26 pounds. Aepyornis maximus produced the largest known bird egg, and may be the largest egg ever produced by any animal with respect to volume. Only large theropod dinosaurs produced longer eggs.

The vast majority of Aepyornis maximus eggs are recovered from sand dunes bordering the sea. Coastal erosion during the monsoon season frequently releases them from muds in which they are found. Less than 30 complete specimens have been documented and preserved in museum collections, which is indicative of the extreme rarity of such an offering. The Malagasy Elephant Birds did not become extinct until historic times—possibly not until the beginning of the 17th Century. Native peoples have corroborated their late disappearance. Their extinction began around the time of the destruction of the Madagascar forests. As the forests diminished, so did the number of these colossal birds. The hunting of these birds for food also contributed to their population decline, as evidenced by findings of burnt bones. These two factors resulted in the complete extinction of these harmless birds, whose enormous size makes them one of the wonders of nature. Height 12in Circumference 28.5in
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