Aepyornis maximus new classification
British zoologists have revised the classification of the Aepyornis maximus, the largest birds that ever inhabited the planet, and isolated the largest of the species into a separate genus. According to the Royal Society Open Science, the bird was named Vorombe titan, and it weighed, on average, 640 kilograms.
Birds from the family of Aepyornithidae lived in Madagascar. Most of them died out about a thousand years ago, probably because of man, although reports of Aepyornis birds appeared until the middle of the 18th century. These were the largest birds in history. Their closest modern relatives are New Zealand kiwi. According to researchers, the Aepyornis maximus could reach three meters in height and weigh up to 400 kilograms. They carried eggs, which by volume were 160 times larger than chicken and reached a length of 34 centimeters.
Ornithologists began to study and classify the remains of Aepyornis birds from the middle of the XIX century. Currently, the family is distinguished by two genera, Mullerornis and Aepyornis, to which, according to different researchers, there are four to seven species. One of the first researchers described the species Aepyornis maximus, whose representatives were considered the largest on the planet by birds. In 1894, another species, the Aepyornis titan, was identified in the genus of Aepyornis. It was even larger bird, which weighed from 570 to 730 kilograms, about the same as small dinosaurs-sauropods.
British zoologists James Hansford and Samuel Turvey of the Zoological Society of London attempted to clarify the classification of Aepyornis and, for this, to conduct a morphometric analysis of all the bones of the extremities of these birds from the collections of different museums in the world. As a result, scientists measured 346 femoral, tibial-tarsal bones and branches (bones of birds between the shin and fingers). And also determined the age of some birds using radiocarbon analysis.
The results of the measurements showed that the bones of Aepyornis titan differed in size and shape from the bones of other Aepyornis. Therefore, the researchers identified Aepyornis titan in a separate genus and named it Vorombe titan.
Elephant birds were the largest representatives of the Madagascar megafauna, and perhaps the most important in the evolutionary history of the island, even more, important than lemurs. This is due to the fact that large animals have a huge impact on the ecosystem in which they live. They control vegetation by eating plants, distribute biomass and seeds. Madagascar still suffers because of the disappearance of these birds.
– James Hansford
In an earlier work, researchers led by Samuel Tervi showed that people settled Madagascar about 10,000 years ago, much earlier than was thought. Scientists have found the bones of an Aepyornis bird, which, apparently, became a prey to prehistoric hunters.