Posts Tagged ‘Extinction’

Giant Yummy Eggs Killed Off the Elephant Bird

19 Dec

Photo: De Agostini Picture Library/BBC

Scientists have put forth various theories to explain the extinction of the giant Elephant Bird, the largest bird to ever live on Earth, including climate change and hunting by humans. The truth, it turns out, can be summed up in two words: yummy eggs.

Sir David Attenborough explains:

Recent archaeological evidence has revealed the fragments of elephant bird egg shells among the remains of human fires, suggesting that the eggs, which are 180 times bigger than a chicken egg, regularly provided food for entire families.

Sir David says: "I doubt it was hunted to extinction – anyone who has seen an ostrich in a zoo knows that it has a kick which can open a man’s stomach and an enraged elephant bird, many times the size of an ostrich, must have been a truly formidable opponent.
"I suspect it was its egg. They may not have been able to tackle an adult bird, but they could have taken its eggs which would have been a huge source of food.
"Even if the bird itself was held in awe or fear by the people here, it’s unlikely the eggs were – and that would have meant the gradual disappearance of this unique giant."



Extinct Tortoise Could Make a Comeback [Reversing Extinction]

24 Sep

When Charles Darwin wrote about giant tortoises living on Floreana in 1835, he noted a marked decline in their population from previous years. Eleven years later, another visitor to the island declared the entire species extinct. But a fortuitous discovery has led researchers to believe that they can bring this animal back from the evolutionary grave.

Although the tortoises vanished from the Floreana, a handful were preserved by the very sailors who contributed to their extinction. When they didn't need the tortoises for food, the sailors would drop the tortoises off at their whaling grounds, notably the Galapagos island of Isabela. There the Floreana tortoises interbred with the native tortoises, allowing their DNA to live on:

"The [living tortoise] samples were collected in 1994, but we had no idea what was in there because we didn't have Floreana data," said Gisella Caccone, an evolutionary biologist at Yale University in New Haven, Conn. "OK, now we have genotypes for 15 to 25 animals from the museums, so we did the analysis and boom!"

Sadly, the biologists won't be staging any Jurassic Park-style cloning to revive the reptile, as is being planned for a baby mammoth fossil discovered in Siberia last year. Instead, they will determine if there are enough tortoises carrying the Floreana DNA to begin a selective breeding program.

Extinct Giant Tortoise Could Be Revived [LiveScience]

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