LONDON (Reuters) - Believed to be more than 400 years old and nearly 200 times the size of a chicken egg, an extremely rare elephant bird egg will be auctioned in London this week, with an estimated price tag of up to $76,000.
The egg, over 30 centimeters (11.81 inches) high, was laid by the now extinct elephant bird, a giant flightless bird indigenous to Madagascar, according to auction house Sotheby's.
The bird, believed to be the largest ever on earth at about three meters high and half a ton in weight, became extinct between the 13th and 17th centuries due to hunting.
"It's the largest egg from the largest bird that ever existed," David Goldthorpe, senior director of Sotheby's books and manuscripts department, told Reuters. "It is related to the cassowary and the ostrich which are still with us today."
Sotheby's will offer the egg at an auction on Thursday. It said it was estimated at 30,000 - 50,000 pounds ($76,410).
In the 19th century they were greatly prized as sort of natural history curios by collectors, so a lot of them were collected then. But it's very rare to find them intact as this one is," Goldthorpe said.
"They're often reassembled from broken parts. They're often found in remnants of fires from early settlers of Madagascar, which indicates they were probably used for food, which has contributed to the bird's extinction."
(1 US dollar = 0.6544 British pound)
Reporting By Helena Williams; Writing by Marie-Louise Gumuchian; Editing by Louise Heavens