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Sunday, October 17, 2021

Dwarf Emu Egg Thought To Be Extinct Found In Australian Sand Dune

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Emu was a short bird that appeared stocky that became extinct almost 200 years back. It came as a huge surprise when an impressively huge dwarf emu egg was found recently. Scientists have unearthed this dwarf emu egg from one of the sand dunes on an island located between Australia and Tasmania. This was revealed by a new study that was conducted. 

Julian Hume is a paleontologist and a research associate at the National History Museum of London as well as the lead researcher of the study. He has shared that they found an empty and cracked eggshell that had a few missing pieces. Nonetheless, it was a unique and rare discovery for them and the world. It has been known that the only nearly complete egg of a dwarf emu, ‘Dromaius novaehollandiae minor, from King Island was almost half the size of a mainland Australian emu. In addition, it is also the only surviving emu found down on earth. 

The dwarf emu egg is approximately the size of any regular emu egg. This is mainly due to the reason that the chicks of the emu were supposed to be big enough in order to support body heat. The chick also had to be strong enough to quickly find food after hatching. Hume compared this process to a kiwi.

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Excitement Over Dwarf Emu Egg 

Dwarf Emu Eggs

The islands near southern Australia earlier sheltered different kinds of emu subspecies. These included the Tasmanian emu, which was relatively smaller, and 2 other dwarf emus, namely the emus of the King Island as well as the Kangaroo Island. 

These Kangaroo and King Islands were previously connected with the Australian mainland during the last ice age because the sea levels were much lower. Nonetheless, the islands soon got separated as soon as the glaciers from the ice age melted and nearly 11,500 years back the sea levels rose. 

Hume has informed that the population of these emus rapidly became smaller through their evolutionary process that is called insular dwarfism. This mainly happened after the emus were isolated on the respective islands. Ultimately, the smaller the islands became, the smaller the emu got. 

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Study On Emus 

Christian Robertson is a natural historian working on King Island and has a large collection of emu remains. Hume and his group of researchers met Robertson during his fieldwork because the latter possessed the valuable dwarf emu egg that was a crown jewel from King Island. 

Hume informed that Robertson had managed to collect all those broken pieces of emu egg in one place and had put them together with a lot of effort. Finally, Robertson had an almost complete yet beautiful emu egg that is the only one remaining all over the world. As a result, Robertson invited Hume to collaborate with him to study it. 

Subsequently, the entire team started analyzing the dwarf emu egg along with 36 other emu eggs belonging from the mainland, 6 Tasmanian emu eggs, and 1 from Kangaroo Island. Although there were differences in the size of the adult emus, the eggs were acutely similar to another. 

The weight of the mainland emu egg is 0.59 kilograms with 539 millimeters of volume. The dwarf emu egg from King Island weighed 0.54 kilograms and had a volume of 465 millimeters. 

The large size of the dwarf emu egg proved to be an advantageous evolution according to Hume. He explained that the large chicks had a better chance of survival against predators so, the emus born were large enough from birth. The King Island emus became extinct within 5 years of the arrival of humans on the island.

Image Featured Julian Hume




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