A new mass estimate for the dodo (Raphus cucullatus), based on the lengths of the femur, tibiotarsus and tarsometatarsus, is attempted. The obtained mean mass is 10.2 kg, which is less than previous estimates based on other methods, which ranged from 10.6 to 21.1 kg, and much lower than the 50 lbs reported by a seventeenth-century eyewitness. The new estimated mass, which is similar to that of a large wild turkey, seems more realistic than previous ones and supports the hypothesis that contemporary illustrations of extremely fat dodos were either exaggerations, or based on overfed specimens. Pictures of “fat” dodos may also have been based on individuals exhibiting a display behaviour with puffed out feathers.
Table 1Table showing lengths of femora, tibiotarsi and tarsometatarsi of Raphus cucullatus, with estimated body masses for each measurement. The equations used and the parameters for the various bones are provided (after Zeffer et al. 2003). A list of collections holding the bones used in the present study is shown at the bottom (DOC 38 400 kb)