Name: Aepyornis.
Phonetic: Ay-pe-or-nis.
Named By: Isidore Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire‭ ‬-‭ ‬1851.
Classification: Chordata,‭ ‬Aves,‭ ‬Aepyornithiformes,‭ ‬Aepyornithidae.
Species: A.‭ ‬maximus‭ (‬type‭)‬,‭ ‬A.‭ ‬hildebrandti.
Diet: Frugivore‭?
Size: Larger individuals approach‭ ‬3‭ ‬meters tall.
Known locations: Madagascar.
Time period: Extinction roughly estimated about‭ ‬1000AD.
Fossil representation: Remains of numerous individuals including eggs.

       More popularly known as an‭ ‘‬elephant bird‭’‬,‭ ‬Aepyornis is one of the largest birds ever discovered.‭ ‬This size and associated weight meant that Aepyornis was completely flightless,‭ ‬even lacking the deep keeled breast bone for strong chest muscle attachment.‭ ‬Modern analysis shows that Aepyornis and other elephant birds of the Aepyornithidae appear to be most closely related to the New Zealand kiwi.‭ ‬Like these Aepyornis seems to have had poor eyesight and may have been more nocturnal.‭ ‬Study of Aepyornis skull structure and brain area does however show that Aepyornis probably had an extremely well developed sense of smell.‭ ‬Aepyornis possibly roamed around the dense Madagascan forests looking for food.‭
       Aepyornis is thought to have gone extinct around‭ ‬1000AD,‭ ‬though a precise date cannot be determined.‭ ‬Human activity is thought to have been the primary cause.‭ ‬Some Aepyornis fossils show signs of butchery,‭ ‬though these are in the minority of known Aepyornis fossils.‭ ‬Perhaps more tellingly is the large amount of Aepyornis eggshells that have been found in association of areas of human habitation.‭ ‬This could suggest that Aepyornis was perhaps not actively hunted,‭ ‬but had eggs stolen to provide food.‭ ‬This would reduce fewer offspring every year until the species got to the tipping point of not being able to sustain itself.‭ ‬Another possibility is that other birds species such as chickens introduced to Madagascar could have also carried avian diseases that Aepyornis had no natural immunity to.
       A former species of Aepyornis,‭ ‬A.‭ ‬titan,‭ ‬is now classed as its own genus named Vorombe.‭ ‬This means that most of the largest known fossils once attributed to Aepyornis now belong to Vorombe,‭ ‬suggesting that Vorombe was slightly larger than Aepyornis.

Further reading
-‭ ‬Ancient DNA reveals elephant birds and kiwi are sister taxa and clarifies ratite bird evolution.‭ ‬-‭ ‬Science.‭ ‬344‭ (‬6186‭)‬:‭ ‬898‭–‬900.‭ ‬-‭ ‬K.‭ ‬J.‭ ‬Mitchell,‭ ‬B.‭ ‬Llamas,‭ ‬J.‭ ‬Soubrier,‭ ‬N.‭ ‬J.‭ ‬Rawlence,‭ ‬T.‭ ‬H.‭ ‬Worthy,‭ ‬J.‭ ‬Wood,‭ ‬M.‭ ‬S.‭ ‬Y.‭ ‬Lee‭ * ‬A.‭ ‬Cooper‭ ‬-‭ ‬2014.
-‭ ‬Nocturnal giants:‭ ‬evolution of the sensory ecology in elephant birds and other palaeognaths inferred from digital brain reconstructions.‭ ‬-‭ ‬Proceedings of the Royal Society B‭ ‬-‭ ‬Christopher R.‭ ‬Torres‭ & ‬Julia A.‭ ‬Clarker‭ ‬-‭ ‬2018.
-‭ ‬Unexpected diversity within the extinct elephant birds‭ (‬Aves:‭ ‬Aepyornithidae‭) ‬and a new identity for the world's largest bird.‭ ‬-‭ ‬Royal Society Open Science.‭ ‬5‭ (‬9‭)‬:‭ ‬181295.‭ ‬-‭ ‬J.‭ ‬P.‭ ‬Hansford‭ & ‬S.‭ ‬T.‭ ‬Turvey‭ ‬-‭ ‬2018.


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