The debate over ‘world’s largest bird’ has been put to rest as British scientists have discovered that a three-metre-tall ostrich-like creature – Vorombe Titan, weighed almost a tonne and is the world’s largest bird.
Named as Vorombe, the bird derived it name from Malagasy and Greek background meaning ‘big bird’.
A study published in the journal Royal Society Open Science on Wednesday Sept 26, suggested that one species of elephant bird was even larger than previously thought ones, with a specimen weighing an estimated 860 kilograms — about the same as a fully grown giraffe.
Riddle of ‘World’s Biggest Bird’-
Elephant birds (belonging to the family Aepyornithidae) are an extinct group of colossal flightless birds that roamed Madagascar during the Late Quaternary, with two genera – Aepyornis and Mullerornis – previously recognised by scientists.
The first species to be described, Aepyornis maximus, has often been considered to be the world’s largest bird. For 60 million years the colossal, flightless elephant bird -Aepyornis maximus -stalked the savannah and rainforests of Madagascar until it was hunted to extinction around 1,000 years ago.
In 1894, British scientist C.W. Andrews described an even larger species, Aepyornis titan, this has usually been dismissed as an unusually large specimen – A Maximus.
Recent finding on the elephant bird –
In the recent study, James Hansford, lead author at the Zoological Society of London revealed that one species of elephant bird was even larger than previously thought, with a specimen weighing an estimated 860 kilograms (1,895 pounds). Hansford said his research proved titan was indeed a different species. But he also found that its bones were so distinct from other elephant bird specimens that titan was in fact an entirely separate genus.
“They would have towered over people. They definitely couldn’t fly as they couldn’t have supported anywhere near their weight. At the extreme extent we found one bone that really pushed the limits of what we now understand about bird size,” said Hansford, referring to the 860-kg specimen.
“And there were some that led up to that too, so it’s not an outlier — there was a range of masses that are extraordinarily large.”
Environmental Impact of large ‘Elephant Birds’ –
Explaining how and why these huge elephant birds were import for ecosystem, Lead Author James Hansford said that, “Elephant birds were the biggest of Madagascar’s megafauna and arguably one of the most important in the islands evolutionary history — even more so than lemurs. This is because large-bodied animals have an enormous impact on the wider ecosystem they live in via controlling vegetation through eating plants, spreading biomass and dispersing seeds through defecation. Madagascar is still suffering the effects of the extinction of these birds today.”