Page last updated at 12:46 GMT, Friday, 16 May 2008 13:46 UK

Extinct bird's egg goes on show

Great Auk egg
The last known sighting of a Great Auk was in Newfoundland in 1852

A rare egg belonging to a flightless bird which has been extinct for more than 150 years has gone on display at a museum in Liverpool.

The egg, from a Great Auk, has been in the World Museum Liverpool's collection since the 1850s but this is the first time it has ever gone on display.

There are believed to be just 75 eggs from the species left in the world.

The bird, which was killed for its oil, feathers and eggs, used to live on both sides of the Atlantic.

The last breeding pair was spotted in 1844 by three sailors on a rocky outcrop on the island of Eldey off Iceland.

The last recorded sighting was in Newfoundland in 1852.

The egg is part of a collection of items bequeathed to the museum in 1852 from the 13th Earl of Derby at Knowsley Hall.

Clem Fisher, the museum's curator of vertebrate zoology, said: "This egg was collected long ago when nature conservation was virtually unknown, and is a stark reminder that whole species can disappear in this way.

Great Auk painting
The bird was killed for its oil, feathers and eggs

"It is probably the most interesting and beautiful markings of all the 75 eggs which are known to exist in the world.

"However, because it is so rare and so precious we have put it on display in our atrium where people first come into the museum, but we're only leaving it there until the end of May because we don't want its markings to fade.

"We were so worried about damaging it that we have left it in its original box and just removed the lid and the cotton wool to display it in the special case."

The egg is part of the museum's Hidden Treasures of Liverpool collection.

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