Science

Massive Elephant Bird Egg Sells For $101,813 At UK Auction

By Nina Sen , Apr 24, 2013 12:41 PM EDT

A massive elephant bird egg sold for 66,675 pounds ($101,813) at a London auction Wednesday.

The partly fossilized egg is 100 times bigger than a chicken egg. It measures 9 inches in diameter and stands a foot tall. Scientists say the egg is likely from the 17th century.

Elephant birds were flightless fruit-eaters that lived on the island of Madagascar. Resembling the modern ostrich, the birds were completely wiped out in the 18th century. The large birds could grow to be 11 feet tall, so it's no surprise one of its eggs would be so massive. Scientists believe the birds died out due to disease brought by humans or simply the humans' appetite for the eggs.

The auction was held at Christie's auction house, where the egg was expected to sell for up to $45,000. It was sold to an anonymous bidder over the phone after several minutes of competition among those interested, according to the Associated Press.

The same auction had other objects from extinct animals up for sale. The femur bone fragment of a dodo bird was also featured. Dodos were also flightless, albeit much smaller, birds that lived in the island of Mauritius, east of Madagascar. However, the femur phone isn't as rare as one might think, since it's one of hundreds from an excavation site on Mauritius called Mare aux Songes.

The elephant bird egg might be the last one in awhile to be sold. In order to prevent looting from archeological sites, the Madagascar government monitors such artifacts.

"Any whole eggs found today in Madagascar are legally the property of the Malagasy government. So no more complete eggs will ever come on the open market, and that must make these very few eggs already in museum and private collections very valuable," archaeologist Mike Parker Pearson, a professor at the Institute of Archaeology, University College London told National Geographic.

Although the new owner of the rare egg is unknown, there are several elephant bird eggs in museums the public can enjoy.

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