It looks like a decades-long debate has come to an end, as Vorombe titan has been proved to be the largest bird that ever existed on Earth. This giant was up to 3 m tall and could weight an astonishing 800 kilograms. Moreover, the scientists discovered that these monsters, former inhabitants of Madagascar, were hugely diverse.
Elephant birds were more diverse than we formerly thought
A recent study, conducted by researchers at the international conservation charity ZSL’s (Zoological Society of London) Institute of Zoology and published on Wednesday in Royal Society Open Science, has unveiled that, contrary to older suggestions of 15 species grouped in two genres, there were three genres and at least four separate species of the monstrous elephant birds. The scientist came to this conclusion by analyzing hundreds of bones from many museums all around the world.
The largest bird ever
Most importantly, these bones allowed the researchers to estimate Vorombe titan’s weight at 800 kg and height at 3 m, which makes this creature undoubtedly the largest bird that ever existed on our planet. Its name originates from Malagasy and Greek, and means “big bird”.
Classification of elephant birds
Elephant birds are an extinct family of flightless birds that used to be grouped in two genres: Aepyornis and Mullerornis. The first species described by the scientists was Aepyornis maximus, believed to be the largest bird until now. The later discovery of an even larger Aepyornis titan wasn’t widely accepted as a separate species, but simply as an unusually large specimen of A. maximus. Thanks to ZSL’s research, we know that it really was a distinct species. Moreover, it was so different that it received a new genus name – Vorombe. According to the researchers, it had much greater impact on the environment of Madagascar than other animals, such as lemurs.