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AUSSIE EGG WAS LAID BY ELEPHANT BIRD

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A giant egg found by three children vacationing in western Australia has been identified as a 2,000-year-old fossil of the extinct Madagascan elephant bird, scientists said Monday.

The researchers took samples from the fossilized egg, which is almost 3 feet around, and ran it through a nuclear accelerator to determine its age."This makes it absolutely certain the egg is from the Madagascan elephant bird and not from an Australian prehistoric giant emu," said Claudio Tuniz of the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organization in a statement.

The ostrichlike bird, known as aepyornis maximus, is thought to have become extinct 800 years ago in Madagascar, about 5,000 miles from Australia. Commonly known as the elephant bird, it stood between 8 and 10 feet tall and was probably flightless.

The egg is one of the few intact elephant bird eggs remaining. It was found in Cervantes, 152 miles north of Perth, in March by three children on a holiday. The egg has a circumference of 31.7 inches and a capacity of 12.8 pints, equal to about 150 chicken eggs, the researchers said.

It is the biggest aepyornis egg ever found and may have floated across the sea, as it is thought another aepyornis egg, found in western Australia in 1930, did.

"This may solve a whole lot of riddles about the bird, but probably we will never be able to explain how the egg came to be found in west Australia," Tuniz said.

The egg was tested for a Perth auctioneer who is considering selling it on behalf of the three children.