2017 BOC Meetings

Monday 13 March 2017: Julian Hume gave a talk titled In search of the dwarf emu: extinct emus of Australian islands. King Island and Kangaroo Island were once home to endemic species of dwarf emu that became extinct in the early 19th century. Emu egg shells have also been found on Flinders Island, which suggests that another emu species may have formerly occurred there. In 1906 J. A. Kershaw undertook a survey of King Island searching for fossil specimens and found emu bones in sand dunes in the south of the island. The available results included a photograph of the fossil locality, but gave no further information as to its whereabouts. Armed with this photograph, Julian travelled to King Island to try and discover where Kershaw had been 110 years before. He presented the results of his palaeontological surveys of all three southern Australian islands to find emu subfossil bones. These surveys included a photographic record of many of the surviving birds and also demonstrate how the islands have been radically altered since their discovery in the first decade of the 19th century.

An artistic impression of Sea Elephant Bay c. 1804, with Southern Elephant Seals and King Island Emus, as described by the naturalist, François Péron. Illustration by Julian Hume.

Julian Hume has travelled widely in search of avian palaeontological deposits, especially in the Mascarene Islands of Mauritius, Réunion and Rodrigues, as well as Hawaii, Madagascar and the islands off southern Australia. By profession, he is an artist specialising in extinct birds, but also has a Ph.D. in avian palaeontology and is a Scientific Associate of the Natural History Museum, Tring. He has written four books and published many papers on birds and their fossil history, with the second edition of his Extinct birds due out in 2017.