The end of the fat dodo? A new mass estimate for Raphus cucullatus
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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.
KeywordsRaphus cucullatus Mauritius Mass Limb bones Morphology
Thanks to all those who provided measurements or information about specimens in their care: Ernst Bauernfeind (Vienna), Georges Lenglet (Brussels), Majken Them Tøttrup and Jon Fjeldså (Copenhagen), Jeremy M. Adams (Brighton), Matt Lowe (Cambridge, UK), Sandra Chapman and Joanne Cooper (London), Joël Clary and Didier Berthet (Lyon), James P. Dean (Washington, D.C.), Paul R. Sweet and Peter Capainolo (New York), Scott V. Edwards and Jeremiah Trimble (Cambridge, Massachusetts), Peter Howlett (Cardiff), Graham Avery (Capetown), Kenneth F. Rijsdijk (Leyden), Jérôme Tabouelle (Elbeuf), Ronan Allain, Claire Sagne and Anne Préviato (Paris), Julian Pender Hume (Tring). We thank Jonathan Barnoud for his help with statistics, and four anonymous reviewers for their comments on the original MS.
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