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Lot
49217

ELEPHANT BIRD EGG. ...

2012 May 20 Natural History & Fine Minerals Signature Auction- New York #6068

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Auction Ended On: May 20, 2012
Item Activity: 3 Internet/mail/phone bidders
2,065 page views
Location: Center 548
548 W. 22nd St.
New York, NY 10011

Description:
ELEPHANT BIRD EGG
Aepyornis maximus
Holocene
Madagascar
This incredible egg is from the largest bird ever to have lived, the 10-foot tall Aepyornis of Madagascar. Known as the Great Elephant Bird, it was perhaps unsurprisingly a ratite (flightless bird) like the Moa, the Rhea or the Ostrich, lacking the keel to its breastbone that would provide sufficient leverage to operate its wings in flight. Believed to have weighed almost 900 lb (400 kg), it was a native of Madagascar that survived at least until the late seventeenth century: the French governor of the island at that time wrote of a reclusive giant bird that laid its eggs in hidden places. Indeed, human desire for these eggs may have been the cause of its extinction, as shell fragments have been found amongst remains of human-made fires, suggesting that they were a substantial food source. The bird has also been popular in folk legend, supposedly inspiring the Roc, or Rukh, of Marco Polo's writings and of the Thousand and One Nights, and immortalized by H.G. Wells in his 1898 story "Aepyornis Island". Remarkably little is known about the creature, however, because no complete skeleton has ever been discovered, and very few associated ones are available for study; their least scarce remains are these incredible eggs. In fact, less than 40 complete, unbroken specimens are known to exist. Most usually the shells of other eggs are reconstructed from fragments, but once in a blue moon a complete specimen turns up, such as the present specimen. Aepyornis maximus produced the largest known bird egg, and maybe the largest egg ever produced by any animal with respect to volume. The volume of this egg roughly equals that of 170 chicken eggs.

This is a truly superb example, with no cracking and no repair, boasting a gorgeous, pitted texture throughout. Of a lovely uniform ivory color, it is one of the finest specimens one could hope to find of these highly desirable eggs, 12¼ inches long, 27½ inches in circumference, presented on a perspex ring stand.

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