World Egg of Extinct Dwarf Emu Discovered in Australian Sand Dune
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A recently discovered extinct dwarf emu egg has offered the global scientific community valuable information into the deceased species.
According to a report from Live Science, a researcher with the United Kingdom's Natural History Museum and an Australian historian found the surprisingly large egg was on King Island, situated between Tasmania and Australia. As the dwarf emu went extinct approximately 200 years ago, the egg's discovery has been considered a "rare" and "unique" find.
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Lead researcher Julian Hume told the outlet the egg was found slightly damaged — with a large crack and several missing pieces — while Hume and his research partner, Christian Robertson, were doing field work.
"[Robertson] found all the broken pieces in one place, so he painstakingly glued them back together and had this beautiful, almost complete emu egg," Hume said in a statement to Live Science. "The only one known in the world [from the King Island dwarf emu]."
According to Hume, it is the most complete egg of the dwarf emu species, known scientifically as the Dromaius novaehollandiae, found on King Island.
As noted in the duo's study published on Wednesday with The Royal Society Publishing, the egg is comparable to that of the modern regular emu, despite the extinct species being only about half of its size.
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"Our results show that despite the reduction in size of all island emus, especially the King Island emu that averaged 44 [percent] smaller than mainland birds, the egg remained similar sized in linear measurements, but less in volume and mass, and seemingly had a slightly thinner eggshell," the study noted.
The team examined the rediscovered egg's dimensions as well as those of modern emus, finding striking similarities in size — despite the dwarf emu's evolution into a short, stout bird. Comparing the dwarf emu to the New Zealand kiwi's prenatal process, the dwarf emu's large eggs are believed to have been effective in breeding healthier chicks longterm.
"That tactic is because the kiwi has to produce a chick that is ready to go," in terms of being able to feed itself and be big enough to maintain body heat, Hume explained to Live Science. "That's exactly what the King Island emu was doing."
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The research paper noted that Tasmania, Kangaroo and King Islands all hosted their own region-specific species of dwarf emus, who likely became smaller over time due to limited resources. All three ultimately were wiped out upon European settlements.
This is the most recent in a slew of rediscoveries of extinct species. In Argentina, aswimming in a local national park. Similarly, alive in Madagascar.
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