17 • A Rare Bone of a Dodo

17 • A Rare Bone of a Dodo

Mauritius; 17th century
13.5 cm long

Dodo bones are exceptionally rare; though not, unfortunately, as rare as the dodo itself. Their name offers a valuable clue as to why, it being thought to derive from the Dutch word dodaersen – ‘big bottom’. For the Dutch sailors who arrived in Mauritius – the only island on earth where dodos lived – after many weeks at sea, these large rumps not only meant they were slow and easy prey, but also promised a plentiful dinner.

This bone would have connected the thigh and foot bones, as can best be seen from James Erxleben’s lithograph of a dodo skeleton, assembled by the 19th century anatomist Richard Owen.

Lithograph by James Erxleben from the Transactions of the Zoological Society, London, 1871
Lithograph by James Erxleben from the Transactions of the Zoological Society, London, 1871