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Quiz about The Great Elephant Bird
Quiz about The Great Elephant Bird

The Great Elephant Bird Trivia Quiz


Until it died out between 1500-1900, the great elephant bird inhabited only one island. Did Europeans ever see it? A close perspective of the great elephant bird.

A multiple-choice quiz by benniebenbenny. Estimated time: 6 mins.
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Time
6 mins
Type
Multiple Choice
Quiz #
266,884
Updated
Jul 23 22
# Qns
10
Difficulty
Tough
Avg Score
5 / 10
Plays
927
Awards
Top 35% Quiz
- -
Question 1 of 10
1. The non-flying group of birds known as ratites include the ostrich, the emu, the kiwi, the cassowary, the rhea, the (extinct) moa, and the (extinct) elephant bird. Which island was the only known habitat of the elephant bird? Hint


Question 2 of 10
2. It is generally accepted that as many as four species of elephant birds may have existed on the island with the largest, the great elephant bird, being the last one to become extinct. What is the great elephant bird's official name? Hint


Question 3 of 10
3. Currently the largest bird in the world, the ostrich can weigh up to 300 lbs. and reach a height of 6 feet. Which bird is considered to be the heaviest ever on record? Hint


Question 4 of 10
4. A very rare elephant bird egg was acquired by explorer Luis Marden in 1967. Where is this elephant bird egg kept? Hint


Question 5 of 10
5. What is suspected to have contributed to the extinction of the great elephant bird? Hint


Question 6 of 10
6. The elephant bird was first seen by either Indonesian, African, or Arab explorers who visited the island between 100-500 A.D.. Who were the first Europeans to settle on the island and possibly see the elephant bird? Hint


Question 7 of 10
7. One of the first Europeans to describe the great elephant bird was Etienne de Flacourt (1607-1660), the first French Governor of the island. In 1658, he briefly wrote "...a large bird which haunts the Ampatres and lays eggs like the ostriches; so that the people of these places may not take it, it seeks the most lonely places". Why did de Flacourt not later elaborate on the existence of the elephant bird? Hint


Question 8 of 10
8. The elephant bird is thought to have evolved on its sole island habitat instead of originating from another continent. Yet, curiously, there were reports of "aepyornithid" (elephant bird-like) eggs found on a group of islands off the northwest coast of mainland Africa. On which island group were eggs similar to those of the elephant bird found? Hint


Question 9 of 10
9. From 1500 till the mid-1800's, Europeans were still skeptical of the possibility of "giant birds laying giant eggs". In 1851, confirmation of the elephant bird's existence came courtesy of a certain (French) Captain Abadie. What evidence proving the elephant bird's existence did he acquire? Hint


Question 10 of 10
10. The sheer size of the great elephant bird may have given rise to a mythological bird of prey. Which bird? Hint



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Quiz Answer Key and Fun Facts
1. The non-flying group of birds known as ratites include the ostrich, the emu, the kiwi, the cassowary, the rhea, the (extinct) moa, and the (extinct) elephant bird. Which island was the only known habitat of the elephant bird?

Answer: Madagascar

Madagascar, a large continent-type island in the Indian Ocean east of Mozambique, mainland Africa, has always been home to unique and intriguing creatures. Among them was the elephant bird, a non-flying bird very similar to the moa of New Zealand. Mauritius was home to the magnificent dodo (Raphus cucullatus). New Zealand was home to the moa, a slightly taller but much slender ratite than the elephant bird.

The moa became extinct around the 1500's although a few may have survived into the 1800's.
2. It is generally accepted that as many as four species of elephant birds may have existed on the island with the largest, the great elephant bird, being the last one to become extinct. What is the great elephant bird's official name?

Answer: Aepyornis maximus

Although some scientists believe in the existence of at least four species (the listed choices), others suspect that they all fall in the sole category of Aepyornis maximus, the great elephant bird. The Malagasy people at one time referred to the elephant bird as vorompatra, or "bird of the Ampatres".

Called the Ampatres during French occupation (1600's), this area in southern Madagascar is now known as the Androy region.
3. Currently the largest bird in the world, the ostrich can weigh up to 300 lbs. and reach a height of 6 feet. Which bird is considered to be the heaviest ever on record?

Answer: The elephant bird

The great elephant bird was estimated to have weighed over 1100 lbs. and stood over 10 ft. high. Although not as tall as the tallest extinct moa of New Zealand (12 ft.), this half-ton walking behemoth of a bird must have presented a formidable sight to anything that crossed its path. By contrast, the biggest moa weighed about 550 lbs., only half the weight of the great elephant bird. The Haast's eagle was the largest eagle in history with a wingspan of about 10 ft. and a body weight of 30 lbs.. It was an indigenous flying predator of New Zealand that became extinct in the early 1500's with the population decline of its main food source, the moa.

Great elephant bird - 10 ft., 1100 lbs.
Moa - 12 ft., 550 lbs.
Ostrich - 6 ft., 300 lbs.
4. A very rare elephant bird egg was acquired by explorer Luis Marden in 1967. Where is this elephant bird egg kept?

Answer: The National Geographic Society

Luis Marden (1913-2003) was an American explorer, photographer, and reporter for the National Geographic Society. This elephant bird egg is a rare example of an intact egg complete with the bird embryo still inside. Elephant bird eggs, the largest in existence, can reach up to 12 inches (1 foot) long, or about 3 feet in circumference.

Although bones of the elephant bird have been found throughout Madagascar, the majority were located in the southern half of the island. In addition, eggs and egg fragments were to be found only in or very near the sand dunes by the seashore. This has led some researchers to believe that the elephant bird was a forest dweller that only ventured to the seaside to lay her egg(s), then return inland to feast on grass, leaves, and shoots.
5. What is suspected to have contributed to the extinction of the great elephant bird?

Answer: All three are likely possibilities

The elephant birds were likely hunted for their meat and eggs by Indonesian, African, and Arab seafarers who settled or visited Madagascar beginning about 100-500 A.D.. Additional theories regarding the extinction of the great elephant bird have been put forward, such as "avian disease" and, by popular naturalist Sir David Attenborough, "climate change" (1963).
6. The elephant bird was first seen by either Indonesian, African, or Arab explorers who visited the island between 100-500 A.D.. Who were the first Europeans to settle on the island and possibly see the elephant bird?

Answer: The Portuguese

The Portuguese were the first Europeans to visit Madagascar, landing there around 1500. In 1642, France claimed the island as a possession. The elephant bird may have died out between 1500-1700, with some scientists settling on 1649 as a possible year. Mauritius, home to the dodo, also experienced a similar fate. First settled by the Portuguese around 1500, it was eventually claimed by the Dutch a hundred years later.

The famous dodo bird likely died out in the late 1600's.
7. One of the first Europeans to describe the great elephant bird was Etienne de Flacourt (1607-1660), the first French Governor of the island. In 1658, he briefly wrote "...a large bird which haunts the Ampatres and lays eggs like the ostriches; so that the people of these places may not take it, it seeks the most lonely places". Why did de Flacourt not later elaborate on the existence of the elephant bird?

Answer: He was killed by Algerian pirates

Unfortunately, no one had the opportunity to interview de Flacourt to find out whether he or his fellow Frenchmen actually saw the great elephant bird or was recording the folk tales of the natives. On his journey back to France, de Flacourt and others were killed or drowned on June 10, 1660 by Algerian pirates roaming the African coastline. Etienne de Flacourt was the author of "Histoire de la grande isle de Madagascar" (1658).

His brief description of the great elephant bird came under the chapter titled "vouropatra". Content to occupy the coastline of Madagascar, neither the Portuguese nor the French ventured inland to prove firsthand the existence of the elephant bird, although the possibility existed that it was already gone by then.
8. The elephant bird is thought to have evolved on its sole island habitat instead of originating from another continent. Yet, curiously, there were reports of "aepyornithid" (elephant bird-like) eggs found on a group of islands off the northwest coast of mainland Africa. On which island group were eggs similar to those of the elephant bird found?

Answer: The Canary Islands

If the eggs do prove to be of an aepyornis type origin, it would create a classic mystery. The Canary Islands, located west of Morocco in northwest Africa, were believed to be unconnected to mainland Africa during the existence of the elephant birds. Although there is the possibility of a temporary "shallow" crossing occurring in bygone times to allow creatures to cross between the two, it is commonly acknowledged that the elephant birds evolved only in Madagascar, located east of Mozambique in southeast Africa, and never once occupied the African mainland.
9. From 1500 till the mid-1800's, Europeans were still skeptical of the possibility of "giant birds laying giant eggs". In 1851, confirmation of the elephant bird's existence came courtesy of a certain (French) Captain Abadie. What evidence proving the elephant bird's existence did he acquire?

Answer: An elephant bird egg

Actually, THREE eggs. In 1851, three eggs of the elephant bird, along with some bone fragments, were acquired by a certain Captain Abadie and taken back to France, confirming once and for all the existence of this massive creature. Shortly after, enough bone fragments were collected to create a complete skeleton of this larger-than-life bird.
In the early 1800's, other French interests may have come into contact with eggs, but all were unable to secure them. A certain Victor Sganzin was rumoured to have seen an egg in the 1830's. The Verreaux, traders of natural history merchandise, supposedly purchased an elephant bird egg in Madagascar but their ship ran aground at La Rochelle, France and the egg was lost overboard. Around the 1840's, a Mr. Dumarele claimed to have been shown the shell of a huge egg by Madagascar natives, but was unable to purchase it from them. No eyewitness drawings. No detailed descriptions. Just eggs and skeletons. The physical colour and appearance of the biggest bird ever to inhabit the Earth can only be guessed at.
Due to the existence of unbroken "aepyornis" eggs, there were those who believed that despite a lack of verifiable sightings, the great elephant bird did not become extinct in the mid-1600's but still roamed Madagascar at least till the end of the 1800's. In 1995, it was reported that two elephant bird eggs washed up on the shores of Australia, located at the other end of the Indian Ocean about 5,000 miles from Madagascar. How it happened remains a mystery. There was speculation that the eggs lay buried beneath the south coastal sands of Madagascar, eventually washed loose, then drifted eastward across the Indian Ocean to reach Australia.
10. The sheer size of the great elephant bird may have given rise to a mythological bird of prey. Which bird?

Answer: The roc

Writing in his travel journal in 1298, Marco Polo described a large eagle-type bird called a "rukh" that was "strong enough to seize an elephant in its claws". Polo had earlier been sent by the Great Khan of China to investigate reports of giant birds seen by Arabic traders who visited Madagascar. Madagascar was also once home to the crowned hawk-eagle, a very large bird of prey that became extinct around 500 A.D. with the arrival of human settlers. Early explorers who saw the huge 1-foot bird eggs in Madagascar may have attributed them to giant rocs that once roamed the island and called them "elephant birds".
Ancient civilizations usually portrayed the fictional gryphon as an eagle-type creature with the body of a lion. The phoenix was a sacred mythical bird of ancient Egypt. The Greeks and Romans later included it as part of their folklore. Haast's eagle was very real and once inhabited New Zealand.

What is most unusual is that on nearby Mauritius, the "immortal" dodo was also under pressure from human settlement during the 1600's. But whereas there is a reasonable body of evidence and descriptions regarding the dodo, not much was recorded of the biggest bird of all time.

Did any European ever see the elephant bird? So far, there is no conclusive proof of eyewitness descriptions. Etienne de Flacourt's book entry, somewhat vague and cursory, is the best reference on the bird by any European visitor.

This quiz is dedicated to:
- My two children, Rebecca and Benjamin.
- Aepyornis maximus, the great elephant bird.

Thank you for playing my nineteenth quiz creation.
Source: Author benniebenbenny

This quiz was reviewed by FunTrivia editor crisw before going online.
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