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Picture of the Day

Giant flightless birds were nocturnal and possibly blind

If you encountered an elephant bird today, it would be hard to miss. Measuring in at over 10 feet tall, the extinct avian is the largest bird known to science. However, while you looked up in awe, it's likely that the big bird would not be looking back. According to brain reconstruction research funded by the National Science Foundation, the part of the elephant bird brain that processed vision was tiny, a trait that indicates they were nocturnal and possibly blind. A nocturnal lifestyle is a trait shared by the elephant bird's closest living relative, the kiwi -- a practically blind, chicken-size denizen of New Zealand -- and a clue that is helping scientists learn more about the elephant bird's behavior and habitat. Scientists had previously assumed that elephant birds were similar to other big, flightless birds, like emus and ostriches -- both of which are active during the day and have good eyesight. The researchers revealed that elephant birds had distinctly different lifestyles through reconstructions of their brains.

Visit Website | Image credit: John Maisano for the University of Texas at Austin Jackson School of Geosciences