Dwarf emu became extinct nearly 200 years ago. But a surprisingly large egg was found in the sand dunes of King Island, a small Australian island off the coast of Tasmania.
The emu that lived on that island were 44% smaller than those on the continent, but the egg is as large as that of the full-size emu, albeit with a thin shell. How he managed to stay hidden there for so long remains a mystery: the find was soon described as “more unique than rare,” according to a report by paleontologist Julian Hume of the National History Museum in London. “It is the only known nearly complete egg of the minor Dromaius novaehollandiae.”
During the last ice age, when sea level was much lower than it is today, this area was part of the Australian coast. Then, once the glaciers melted, it became an island, and the emu who had remained isolated there began to “shrink,” according to an evolutionary process known as “island dwarfing.” But not her eggs, “probably because the chicks must be large enough to maintain body heat and strong enough to forage for food immediately after hatching.”
When Christian Robertson, a King Island historian who owns a large collection of EU remains, found it in the sand, the egg was broken but the pieces were almost all there: “He picked it up and carefully glued it back together, so today we can marvel at a pretty brown egg almost complete.” ». Hume’s study was published in the scientific journal Biology Letters.
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