DNA of Extinct Bird Extracted From Eggshells

Smriti Rao in 80 Beats:

Egg1 An international team of researchers has discovered how to extract DNA from fossilized bird eggs–including the eggshell of the enormous elephant bird that went extinct four centuries ago.

In a research breakthrough, scientists were able to isolate DNA from the eggshells of not just the extinct giant moa bird from New Zealand, but also a 19,000-year-old emu from Australia and the extinct elephant bird of Madagascar. The elephant bird’s egg is the largest known bird egg, with 160 times the volume of a chicken’s egg [New Scientist].

The discovery of these birds’ DNA could help scientists understand how they lived, and why they became extinct. The DNA was extracted from desiccated inner membranes in fossil eggshells, found in 13 locations in Australia, Madagascar and New Zealand [PhysOrg], and the work was published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B

By studying the elephant bird’s genetics, scientists can look for clues about the bird’s physiology and diet that may help them understand what made the giant avian go the way of the dodo.

More here.