Philosophers have debated for centuries whether the chicken or the egg came first, but whatever the answer to that question, we know for sure that a few rare examples of the egg of the elephant bird have long outlasted the remarkable creature itself.
Elephant birds were enormous flightless birds found only on Madagascar, a tropical island off the east coast of Africa. The largest birds that ever lived, skeletal remains show that mature adults could grow more than 10ft (3m) tall and weighed up to 900 lbs (408 kg). Their colossal eggs were even bigger than those of the dinosaurs – up to 200 chicken eggs could fit inside – or a full-grown chicken!
Despite their great size the birds were placid creatures, feeding mostly on low hanging and fallen fruit. They and their eggs were easy pickings for human settlers to the island and they were sadly hunted into extinction around 1,000 years ago.
You would usually need to travel to a museum to see the fossilised egg of this natural wonder of the bird world, but Jurassic Jim’s, in Shanklin High Street, currently has one for sale. Jim is inviting Islanders to pop in to see it, as many of us will never have the chance to see another. Dinosaur obsessed youngsters are likely to be particularly keen to see the rare fossil – and they will be very welcome as Jim loves to chat to them and share his knowledge about the fascinating creatures that dominated the earth for over 140 million years, as they browse the fossils, gemstones, minerals and artifacts in his colourful and vibrant shop.
It is 13 years since Jim Isted turned his back on the corporate world and set up the family-run business built from his own obsession with the natural world. He most enjoys seeing the spark of curiosity on children’s faces and answering their myriad questions about his ever-changing stock. He said: “The way children see the world often sets me thinking – it’s one of the highlights of my day. I would love to chat to them about the life of the elephant bird and show them the egg. There is no obligation at all to buy anything – although I always make sure I have a wide range of interesting items from £1 – so that youngsters can afford something from their pocket money. We also have some amazing Christmas presents at really affordable prices.
“It has been very difficult to get hold of the elephant bird egg – only one company is allowed to export them from Madagascar – and there’s a really long waiting list. In fact I’m so excited about it that I’ll give a free gift to anyone who pops in to see it.”