They became extinct, by the 17th or 18th century if not earlier, for reasons that are unclear, although human activity is the suspected cause.
Elephant birds comprised the genera Mullerornis and Aepyornis.
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The official name of the country is the Republic of Madagascar ( Repoblikan'i Madagasikara ).
Their language is more closely related to Hawaiian than to Bantu, and about half their genes can be traced to Austronesia—that is, Indonesia and the islands of the Pacific. “We finally have a signal of this Austronesian expansion,” said Nicole Boivin, an archaeologist and director of the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Jena, Germany, who discussed the findings at the recent Society for American Archaeology (SAA) meeting here.
Now, new studies—recent or soon-to-be-published—trace a wave of Austronesian colonization between 700 C. The study by Boivin and her colleagues, published today in the , found that these voyagers did not stop at Madagascar.
Aepyornis was among the heaviest of birds (the extinct Dromornis stirtoni of Australia reached a similar weight).
Yet the Malagasy people’s cuisine, rituals, and religious beliefs resemble those of Borneo, some 9000 kilometers to the east. The telltale evidence is, in effect, breadcrumbs: crops distinctive to Austronesia, sprinkled across Madagascar and neighboring islands.
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Elephant birds are members of the extinct family Aepyornithidae.
Elephant birds were large to enormous flightless birds that once lived on the island of Madagascar.