by Katie Scott
The Elephant Bird (Aepyornis maximus) is considered the largest bird to have ever lived. Once native to Madagascar, the first records of the bird are from the 9th century when Saracen and Indian traders visited and spoke of legends of the giant 'roc' bird. The elephant bird became rarer and rarer with the settling of Madagascar’s coastal regions, then inner land by Europeans until it eventually went extinct in the 17th century due to hunting.
Aepyornis is believed to have been more than 3m tall and weighed close to 400 kg, making it the largest bird of its time. Related to ostriches and emus, the elephant bird evolved at a time when birds ruled the earth and had probably existed on Madagascar for 60 million years. Legends told of the fearsome 'roc' bird that ate elephants – in truth, aepyornis was a herbivore.
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