After researching its rare collection, a museum in Buffalo, N.Y. found out that a mysterious elephant bird egg, previously believed not to be real, is actually real and has been mislabeled for decades. After this discovery, the museum is going to reveal the egg to the public next Tuesday.
When the collections manager at the Buffalo Museum of Science was working on the catalog and converting it into a digital system, she spotted a large, realistic looking, cream-colored egg lying among the collection of more than 1,000 eggs.
“When I saw the egg, it was so much bigger than any other eggs in our collection,” Paige Langle, collections manager of zoology, was quoted in The Buffalo News report. “It had so much detailing and pitting, and the color was beautiful. It looked too realistic to be a model.”
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The rare elephant bird egg is partially fossilized and it measures 12 inches long and is 28 inches around, while it weighs more than 3 pounds. The museum called curators who took the egg to the Art Conservation Department at the State University of New York at Buffalo for radiography to see the inside of the egg.
After conducting the test, the team was certain that the egg is real, especially because it revealed “specs of white,” which poses a possibility that the egg could have been fertilized.
According to the records, the Buffalo museum bought the rare elephant bird egg back in 1939, acquiring it from a London taxidermist who bought it on the island of Madagascar where the birds lived in a tropical rainforest. The museum had bought the egg for $92 from Edward Gerrard & Sons of London, according to the archived records.
“Ninety-two dollars in 1939 was not cheap,” Kathryn Leacock, the museum’s director of collections said.
The museum staff also discovered a letter a curator had written at the time, describing that he wanted an elephant bird egg for an exhibition on birds.
According to the report, the bird couldn’t fly and it could grow to be as tall as 10 feet, weighing between 770 and 1,100 pounds. Compared to any vertebrate, the elephant bird laid the largest eggs, even larger than any dinosaur eggs. The bird went extinct over 600 years ago, according to a report on WGRZ-TV.
“Lost, hidden or misidentified artifacts and specimens are not uncommon in museums that have been collecting for centuries,” Leacock said. “The Buffalo Society of Natural Sciences has been collecting since 1861, and as we continue to care for the collection, there is always more to learn and discover.”
There are fewer than 40 elephant bird eggs that are displayed in public institutions, an expert said. Another elephant bird egg, the closest to the Buffalo museum, is at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh, according to The Buffalo News.
“We are super excited that the Buffalo Museum of Science is in that select group,” Leacock said.