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Rare dodo remains discovered in Mauritius

29 December 2005

Bones of the extinct flightless dodo bird have been discovered in Mauritius.

Dodo bones from a site at Mare aux Songes, Mauritius © Pieter Floore

Dodo bones from a site at Mare aux Songes, Mauritius © Pieter Floore

The bones are very well preserved and include rare items such as a dodo beak and dodo chicks as well as remains of giant tortoises and other extinct birds and plants.

This new discovery is the first time remains have been found in their original place and undisturbed.

Mare aux Songes marshland

The bones were unearthed from a site in the Mare aux Songes marshland in October 2005 by a Dutch-Mauritian research team. They discovered a mass grave of remains from many dodo birds and believe them to be at least 2000 years old.

'The discovery is of huge importance and will give us a new understanding of how dodos lived,' said Julian Hume, zoologist at the Natural History Museum.

Model of the extinct dodo in the Museum gallery.

Model of the extinct dodo in the Museum gallery.

'For the first time we will be able to answer questions like how many dodos lived on the island and what did they eat? Young dodo remains may also reveal how they bred and what kind of parents they might have been.'

First undisturbed remains
Most of our knowledge about the dodo comes from a previous discovery of more than 300 individuals from the same marshland in 1865. However, this new discovery is the first time remains have been found in their original place, undisturbed and uncontaminated.
Dodo extinction
The dodo, Raphus cucullatus,  became extinct in Mauritius during the 1680s, only 80 years after Europeans discovered the island. Although sailors may have eaten some they are believed to have become extinct because of introduced predators and habitat destruction.

The new discovery will reveal what life was like for the dodo before human's arrival and will also help us understand more about extinction events on Mauritius and other oceanic islands.

An international team, including the Natural History Museum, the Mauritian Museums Council and Naturalis (National Museum of Natural History, Netherlands) will be carrying out more research at the site in 2006.

Further Information

External Links

  • Naturalis (National Museum of Natural History, Netherlands)