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Scientists discover first extinct pygmy emu eggs in sand dunes



For the first time, scientists have discovered and described eggs belonging to an extinct pygmy emu species. who live on Australia’s only island


The discovery, written in Biology Letters Wednesday, also helps scientists understand more about the now-disappearing dwarf emu. and how their eggs evolved to protect the internal birds.

The egg was a “rare” and “unique” discovery, study leader Julian Hume. A paleontologist and research collaborator with the National Museum of History in London told Live Science.

Emus is the second largest bird in the world. With an average height of 5.7 feet, according to the Smithsonian, there is currently only one species of emu on the Australian and surrounding islands. But this is not always the case. before the arrival of European settlers There are at least three subspecies of emu living on different islands. Off the coast of Australia, as reported by Phys.org, besides the emu still with us today, scientifically known as Dromaius novaehollandiae, there is also a smaller Tasmanian emu (D. diemenensis) Emu Island Dwarf Kangaroo (D. Baudinianus) and the King Island dwarf emu (D. MinorSadly, all three became extinct shortly after European colonization began.

Hume told Live Science. That the emu split up at the end of the last ice age 1

1,500 years ago, when melting glaciers raised sea levels and separated the island from the Australian mainland. It is an evolutionary law that species that are isolated on islands tend to shrink over time. And this is the case with dwarf emu.

According to Phys.org, the smallest of the three subspecies is the King Island. It stands less than a meter (about 3 feet) tall and is about half the weight of a contemporary emu. It is still the only subspecies of the emu that have not yet found eggs.

The eggs were first discovered in the dunes by study co-author Christian Robertson. Natural historian on King Island

“He found all the broken pieces in one place, so he tried to hold them back together and get this beautiful and almost perfect emu egg,” Hume told Live Science. “The only one known in the world [from the King Island dwarf emu]”

This discovery is not unique in itself. It allows scientists to compare all known extinct emu eggs. including six from Tasmania and one from Kangaroo Island. They discovered that despite the bird’s smaller size, But the eggs are about the same size as today’s larger emu eggs. Although slightly less in mass and volume And it seems to have a slightly thinner shell. The study explains

Hume told LiveScience. That keeping eggs larger can help dwarf emu in two ways: It protects the eggs from predators and gives the chicks time to fully develop before they emerge from their shell. This is a similar evolutionary strategy to the New Zealand kiwi. which lays the largest eggs in the world in relation to body size

“That tactic is because Kiwis have to produce chicks that are ready to go,” Hume said. “That’s what the King Island emus is doing.”

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