Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Elephant Bird

Egg gathering wiped out its share of wild life, mostly long before modern fire arms ever showed up.  The elephant bird surely had no strategy beside physical presence and that was no deterrent to humanity.   Simple noise making would lead such a bird away while a confederate grabbed the prize.

I suspect that sooner or later we will develop the ability to resurrect all these lost genomes from DNA samples.  Plenty of remains have been found and secured in museums so that this is becoming highly likely for all recently extinct species. 

The ones I want to see most are the mammoth and mastodon.

In fact I think it is time to set up a global  extinct genome recovery program against the day of species restoration.  Madagasgar is an important refugia as is New Guinea for Age of Reptiles types.  Perhaps Alaska can have a few mammoths and mastodons and their friends.  We will isolate other obvious islands for additional groups.

We will no longer be passive bystanders.

David Attenborough and the mystery of the elephant bird

The largest bird to ever live on the planet was driven to extinction by humans eating its massive eggs, according to a new television documentary by Sir David Attenborough.

An elephant bird and Sir David Attenborough with the elephant bird egg  Photo: De Agostini Picture Library /BBC

By Richard Gray, Science Correspondent 7:30AM GMT 19 Dec 2010

As souvenirs go, the giant fossilised egg that Sir David Attenborough keeps wrapped up for safe-keeping in the cellar of his London home is not bad for someone with a 60 year career as Britain's foremost natural history documentary maker.

Now in a bid to find out more about the foot long egg he collected on the island of Madagascar 50 years ago and the birds that laid them, Sir David has returned to the island off the east coast of Africa for a new BBC documentary on a quest to discover what happened to the largest birds to ever live on the planet.

The egg was laid by an elephant bird, which were more than 10 feet tall and weighed around half a ton, but what caused the huge birds to die out has remained a mystery, with some claiming they were hunted to extinction by humans and others blaming climate change.

But Sir David claims there is now compelling evidence that suggests the birds were gradually killed off by the early human inhabitants on the island stealing the giant eggs for food. He believes the birds themselves were revered by the indigenous populations, but the use of their eggs for food, combined with the destruction of the forests where the elephant birds lived, led to their eventual demise.

Recent archaeological evidence has revealed the fragments of elephant bird egg shells among the remains of human fires, suggesting that the eggs, which are 180 times bigger than a chicken egg, regularly provided food for entire families.

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