Aepyornis: The Latest News on the Elephant Bird

Discussion in 'Nonfiction Writing' started by rlkyle, Nov 5, 2018.

  1. rlkyle

    rlkyle New Member

    For anyone who has ever had an opportunity to get up close and personal with an ostrich, the obvious description of "big" might be an understatement. Imagine then, a bird that towered above the tallest horses, and weighed in at a hefty 800-1000 pounds! Such a creature roamed the wilds of Madagascar as recently as the 1500's. Aepyornis, also known as Vorumbe Titan (Big Bird) in Latin, may actually have been a night dweller and could even have been nearly or fully blind. This according to an October 2018 study conducted by the University of Austin, using casts of the brain case called an endocast which compared the titanic avian to the Kiwi, believed to be its nearest living relative. The Kiwi also lives nocturnally, has poor vision, and shares some interesting cranial characteristics with its massive cousin. Christopher Torres, Ph.D. elaborates:
    "In both Elephant Bird skulls, the optic lobe - a bundle of brain nerves that controls
    eyesight, was very small, with the structure almost absent in the larger species. The
    lobe had the most in common with that of the Kiwi, which Torres said came as a
    "total shock", because of the Kiwi's poor vision and nocturnal behavior."
    Discoveries like this one are made every day in our universities and research labs and shed light on the habits and traits of lifeforms no longer with us. In fact, the science far outpaces our ability to disseminate the latest discoveries. Publications like the UT News of Austin University provide the public with the tools to lessen that time lapse between discovery and education. A deeper understanding of our world, its flora and fauna, and diverse ecosystems, both past and present is more than just an exercise in curiosity. It forms a crucial element in our interactions with that world and ultimately, with one and other. Aepyornis is, so far as we know, no longer with us. The ostrich however is. If our understanding today helps us save the ostrich and avoid past mistakes such as those we made with the Elephant bird, then science has served us and our world well.

    (2018, October 31) UT News / The University of Texas at Austin. Giant Flightless Birds
    Were Nocturnal and Possibly Blind
    / UT News / The University of Texas at Austin / Retrieved
    November 5 2018, from http://news.utexas.edu/2018/10/31/biggest-bird-may-have-been-blind
     

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