, Volume 98, Issue 3, pp 233–236 | Cite as

The end of the fat dodo? A new mass estimate for Raphus cucullatus

  • Delphine Angst
  • Eric BuffetautEmail author
  • Anick Abourachid
Short Communication


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.


Raphus 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.

Supplementary material

114_2010_759_MOESM1_ESM.xls (38 kb)
Table 1 Table 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)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Delphine Angst
    • 1
  • Eric Buffetaut
    • 2
    Email author
  • Anick Abourachid
    • 3
  1. 1.ParisFrance
  2. 2.Centre National de la Recherche ScientifiqueUMR 8538, Laboratoire de Géologie de l’Ecole Normale SupérieureParis Cedex 05France
  3. 3.Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle, Département EGB UMR7179, équipe MorphoMotionPavillon d’Anatomie ComparéeParisFrance

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