(CNN) –You might think Big Bird was unrealistically giant, but he is still not the biggest bird ever to go…
You might think Big Bird was unrealistically giant, but he is still not the biggest bird ever to go to earth. The glory goes to elephant birds, which stood 10 meters long and stretched Madagascar thousands of years ago.
For reference, “Sesam Street” says Big Bird at 8 feet, 2 inches.
New research suggests that the giant volatile birds, which expired between 500 and 1000 years ago, were also nightly and blind. An analysis of two elephant bird skull from two species was published Tuesday in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
“As soon as 500 years ago, giant volatile birds shattered around Madagascar’s forests in the dark. Nobody ever expected it,” said Julia Clarke, co-author and professor at the University of Texas Jackson School of Geosciences.
They believed that these birds resembled emus and ostriches; They are also large, non-fly birds, but they are active during the day and have good eyesight. But this new research shines on elephant birds closer to kiwi ̵
1; even nightly with poor vision. Kiwi, which is about the size of chickens, lives in New Zealand.
As bird skulls fit close to their brains, the shape of the coral is correlated with the brain’s structures. The brain reconstruction research in elephant birds showed that their optical lobes, the nerves that control the vision, were incredibly small and almost absent. This is similar to a lot of kiwi.
“It was surely the most surprising, how little the elephant’s optical lobes were,” says Christopher Torres, studying co-authors and doctoral students. graduate of the University of Texas in Austin. “The few studies that speculated what their behavior was that explicitly assumed they were active during the day. Once we made the connection with the nightmare, we were blown away. It meant revising more than the century’s worth of attempts to reconstruct the elephant’s lifestyles.”
So how did elephant birds be nightly?
But elephant birds had no known predators and were herbivores.
In this case, nocturnality is probably a hereditary feature of ancestor divided by elephant birds and kiwi. And sometimes competition between species can cause extreme developments.
The researchers acknowledged a pattern where these birds undergo a nightly phase, caused by photosensitivity, which allows them to see under low light, said Torres. In flightless birds, their visual is reduced, and they depend on other senses.
They also looked at the larger group of birds including ostriches, emus, cassowaries, rheas, kiwi, moa and tinamous, where a relationship between the development of odor and habitat preference was formed.
“Species in this group living in forests seem to rely on a well-developed sense of smell to help them feed in conditions where visual signals can be prevented,” said Torres.
The next mystery is about why elephant birds released, and it is still unresolved. But researchers have clues that point to hunting and habitat destruction by humans, as well as climate change.
At that time, Madagascar’s climate was still changing, and people had not reached the point where they could influence global climate change.
“New studies have suggested that elephant birds survived initial contact with humans for many thousands of years based on the tools labeled on radiometric dated residues,” said Torres.
And knowing that elephant birds were nightly also helps to explain why they managed to coexist with humans for so long. Other birds were not so lucky. Moa, nine species of fugitive birds, were apparently gone for a few centuries after people made it to New Zealand, he said.
Further, Torres wants to take a deeper look at the strange evolutionary stories of creatures like elephant birds.
“Studying brain shape is a very useful way of connecting ecology – the relationship between bird and environment and anatomy,” said Torres. “Discoveries like these give us enormous insights into the lives of these bizarre and poorly understood birds.”
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