Media ReleaseFrom: The Royal Society
Nocturnal giants: evolution of the sensory ecology in elephant birds and other palaeognaths inferred from digital brain reconstructions
The biology of the massive, recently-extinct Malagasy elephant birds is mostly unknown, but they have historically been assumed to have been primarily active during the day. Using digital reconstructions of the external surfaces of their brains, we discovered that elephant birds had virtually lost their optic lobes, the region of the brain that processes visual input. These results are surprising evidence that elephant birds were nocturnal, much like their closest living relatives, the kiwi. Their brains also had relatively large olfactory bulbs (where scent is processed), evidence that at least some species lived in forests.