What do you call a winged creature that weighs 1,000 pounds?
An elephant bird.
It’s not a joke. It’s a real, now-extinct animal.
People found fossil evidence of elephant birds in the East African island country of Madagascar in the 19th century. But few whole bones remained to study. Researchers didn’t know much about the mysterious birds.
But now they’ve started piecing together their eggshells.
Researchers got permission from locals to visit the beaches of Madagascar. They found shards of eggshell fossils and studied them.
Gifford Miller is one of the researchers. “It was pretty exciting,” he tells NPR. “We had a Malagasy guide with us at all times that could help us get around. . . . The eggshells look like pottery. They’re so strong. They’re not at all fragile.”
The researchers fitted fossil bits together, kind of like you might glue together bits of a broken teapot. A single elephant bird egg measured about a foot and a half long. Scramble that, and you’d have breakfast for the whole family—or maybe the whole street! Let it grow, and you’d get a bird bigger than an ostrich. This bird wouldn’t fly away. Like an ostrich, it would stay firmly on the ground.
Based on their findings, scientists guess elephant birds grew big fast. They think the elephant birds could probably defend themselves against all predators . . . except humans.
When it comes to fossils, we can guess only so much. In the past, people have put bone puzzles together all wrong. But it’s still fun to imagine how the elephant bird might have looked. How do you think God designed Madagascar’s big, big, BIG bird? Draw us a picture!
The reward for humility and fear of the Lord is riches and honor and life. ― Proverbs 22:4
Why? Madagascar is a fascinating part of the world that might be off your radar . . . and so might the extinct elephant bird!