Ever Had an Extinct Omelette?
For sale: An ancient, extra-large egg from a long-extinct bird
TOP: The fossilized egg is more than 100 times larger than a chicken egg! (Suzanne Plunkett / Reuters)
BOTTOM: Elephant birds in Madagascar grew to be 11 feet tall and weighed roughly 880 pounds. (Jaime Chirinos / Science Source)
Easter may have come and gone, but there is one more egg hunt to win. Christie’s, a famous auction house in London, is selling a giant fossilized egg expected to be worth thousands of dollars! Why the fuss? The enormous egg, laid hundreds of years ago, is from an extinct bird.
THE ELEPHANT BIRD
The egg was laid by an elephant bird in Madagascar, an island country off the southeastern coast of Africa. These birds, whose scientific name is Aepyornis maximus, looked like big ostriches. They grew to be 11 feet tall—nearly as tall as the average elephant—and weighed roughly 880 pounds. They were unable to fly. At the time they lived, they were the largest birds on Earth.
Elephant birds became extinct between the 14th and 17th centuries. Scientists are not sure why. Some think humans on Madagascar hunted the giant birds to extinction. Others believe that elephant birds died from diseases carried by chickens and other animals brought to the island by humans.
EGG FOR SALE
The fossil measures one foot tall and has a diameter of nine inches. That makes it larger than many dinosaur eggs—and more than 100 times larger than a chicken egg!
Whole elephant bird eggs are extremely rare. Some specimens (samples) are pieced together from leftover shells and then sold to collectors.
James Hyslop, a scientific expert at Christie’s, tells ITN News, “It’s the first one that I’ve handled that is absolutely complete. The only other ones that I’ve seen have been patched together from composite specimens.”
Sale of the egg is scheduled for April 24. It is part of a collection of scientific and natural-history items that are being auctioned at the same time. Christie’s officials believe the egg could sell for roughly 30,000 British pounds, or about $45,000.