[order] STRUTHIONIFORMES | [family] AEPYORNITHIDAE | [latin] Aepyornis maximus | [UK] Great Elephantbird | [Authority] I. Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, 1851

Great Elephantbird extinct species

The Great Elephantbird of Madagascar holds the distinction of having laid the largest egg known to man, in fact the largest of single-celled objects. This extraordinary egg is far bigger than that laid by any known dinosaur or any other giant reptile and is thought to have given rise to Arab tales of the "roc". Nothing is known of the bird's habits and even its exact appearance in life is unknown; it is assumed that it looked something like an enormous Emu. Standing some 3 m high, this was an incredibly ponderous and heavy bird and in terms of sheer weight it is the largest bird ever known to have lived. There appear to have been several related species occupying the island of Madagascar and this particular one - the largest - seems to have been the last to become extinct. The testimony of the first French Governor of Madagascar, Etienne de Flacourt, seems to indicate that individuals still survived in the 1650's. He mentioned a large bird that laid an egg similar to that of an Ostrich. Sadly for Monsieur de Flacourt, he was killed by Algerian pirates on his way back to France without further elaborating on his story. The gigantic eggs of the bird, as big as an American football or a rugby ball, are still found from time to time in Madagascar and fragments of them are common at certain localities. Although virtually complete skeletons exist, bones seem to be much, much rarer than eggs.

Ann. Sci. Nat. Zool. Ser. 3, no. 14: 209