BUFFALO, NY - A rare and exciting discovery at the Buffalo Museum of Science: the egg of an extinct elephant bird found in a locked cabinet inside a storage room in the museum.
Zoology Collections Manager, Paige Langle, is helping modernize the museum's catalog system. She saw a large cream colored egg that was labeled as a model. In fact, it was mislabeled. Upon further observation she realized it was likely the real deal.
"I opened the case and I gently picked up the egg and immediately could feel the difference and I could see the difference and the way the pitting is and the coloration. It was just this moment of oh my goodness...I think it's real."
The museum reached out to the Art Conservation Department at SUNY Buffalo State. The egg was closely examined and radiographed for confirmation.
"You can see these little white specks so we hypothesized that it actually was fertilized," according to Director of Collections, Kathryn Leacock.
The egg is 12 inches long and 28 inches in circumference, and weighs 3.5 pounds.
Records at the museum indicate the egg was purchased in 1939 from London. Apparently when the museum opened in its current location in 1929, there was a huge push to fill it with collections. The staff would write wish lists, according to Leacock.
"The person working on the bird hall wanted an elephant bird egg." He searched all over and was able to purchase one from London.
There are less than 40 intact eggs in public institutions.
Elephant birds are flightless and only found in Madagascar. The eggs served as a food source for people which likely led to its extinction in more than 600 years ago. "This egg is the equivalent of about 150 chicken eggs," said Leacock.
There are only artist renderings of elephant birds. It has thick legs and averaged 10-feet in height and weighed between 770 and 1,100 pounds. Elephant Bird eggs are known as the largest eggs ever laid by any vertebrate, including dinosaurs, with some eggs measuring up to 13 inches in length.
Leacock said the egg was able to stay intact because it was partially fossilized. She said it is "priceless" and now Buffalo can take pride in having an egg of an extinct elephant bird.
The egg will be on display at the museum beginning May 1.