Saturday, March 30, 2013

Elephantine egg

Next month, Christie's will be holding an auction of travel, science, and natural history items in London. The item that is getting the most press is a giant egg (IMAGE ABOVE), expected to bring in up to $45,420 (£30,000). The egg – which is 8 3/4" (21 cm) in diameter – is that of the elephant bird (Aepyornis maximus), which resembled a gargantuan ostrich. The flightless creatures were hunted to extinction in their native Madagascar by the 17th c., and archaeological finds of egg shells near human fires indicate that elephant bird eggs provided many a meal. Here I must confess to another lack of knowledge about fossils. The description indicates that the item offered for auction is a sub-fossil. I looked it up to find that it means partially fossilized, due to inadequate time or inoptimum conditions. The entry in Wikipedia includes as illustration the skeleton of the dodo bird, native to an island east of Madagascar, also hunted to extinction in the 17th c., and also offered – in part – at the upcoming Christie's auction.

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