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Museum has rare ‘elephant bird’ egg

THANKS TO modern technology, suspicions at the Gemer-Malohunt Museum in Rimavská Sobota have been confirmed. The big egg-shaped globe hidden under layers of paper and linen is actually an eggshell.

THANKS TO modern technology, suspicions at the Gemer-Malohunt Museum in Rimavská Sobota have been confirmed. The big egg-shaped globe hidden under layers of paper and linen is actually an eggshell.

The egg belonged to a giant vuron, the so-called “elephant bird” (Aepyornis maximus), which is extinct and is considered to be the biggest bird to have ever lived on the planet. Museum director Oľga Bodorová told the SITA newswire that the giant egg was donated to the museum by a local elementary school in 1990. The egg bears a map with German inscriptions on the surface, as the shell had at some point been fashioned into a globe.

Museum biologist Monika Gálffyová said that they expected to see the shell of an egg beneath the map and the layer of woven canvas. “Why else would the globe have such a shape,” Gálffyová suggested. Last autumn Vladimír Bahýľ at the Technical University in Zvolen ran some tests and confirmed that the globe masks an egg of a giant, extinct animal. “Without technical devices, its content could not have been identified,” the Sme daily quoted Bodorová as saying. She added that the interior of the eggshell is reinforced with wood. According to her, the egg is a rarity, and they do not have any information that a similar specimen ever existed in Slovakia.

Bodorová said that the egg will be shown to visitors in the future. Gálffyová explained that they are trying to determine how the egg ended up in Rimavská Sobota.

The Elephant bird was huge and flightless, and was native to Madagascar. It weighed about 400 kilograms and was more than three metres tall. Its eggs were up to one metre in perimeter and 34 centimetres long, with a volume 160-times bigger than that of chicken egg.

“It is not known when, exactly, it became extinct,” she said, “but it was in the 17th century, at the latest.” Scientists suppose that people are behind the extinction of these birds, as they collected the huge eggs for food. However, it is also possible that illness brought in by domestic animals contributed to their extinction, Gálffyová added.

The National Geographic Society in Washington has a complete fossilised elephant bird egg from Madagascar, and other egg fragments can be found in the UK and France. Last year, a complete giant vuron egg was auctioned in London for more than €78,000.

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