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Le musée du Dodo

Speculation, statistics,
facts and the Dodo’s extinction date

Anthony S. Cheke

Historical Biology, 2014
(Received 31 January 2014; accepted 11 March 2014)

Two recent papers claiming to offer reasons to support a late (1680s þ ) extinction date for the Dodo Raphus cucullatus base their arguments on information that does not in fact alter the biological and historical facts suggesting extinction on mainland Mauritius in the 1640s and on an offshore refuge in 1662. Recently accessible manuscripts indicating that the Dutch settlers in Mauritius saw no Dodos during 1664–1674 reinforce this view.

Keywords: Raphus cucullatus; Aphanapteryx bonasia; Red Hen; Mauritius; Ile d’Ambre; refuge; Lamotius; Harry


As an acknowledged icon of extinction, and indeed the first living (non-fossil) animal recognised as having become extinct (Turvey and Cheke 2008), the Dodo Raphus cucullatus, a giant extinct endemic flightless pigeon of Mauritius, has generated a literature that is disproportionately large given how little is actually known about it in life. A significant subset of Dodo writings revolve around the disputed date of its extinction. In absolute terms a few decades here or there in the seventeenth century are of little ultimate import, but the totemic nature of the species and the difference it makes to understanding the causes of its extinction, and that of other members of its island ecosystem, makes the discussion of some interest. Two recent papers (Jackson 2013; Roberts 2013) have, in quite different ways, used tangential information to speculate on the Dodo’s extinction date, but to follow the rather complex story some background is required.

The historical context around the Dodo’s extinction is the two periods of Dutch settlement of the previously uninhabited island by the Verenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie, 1638–1658 and 1664–1710, with the welldocumented shipwreck of the Arnhem in 1662 occurring during the interval when the Dutch temporarily abandoned the island (Moree 1998; Cheke and Hume 2008). The full quotations from seventeenth century writings on Dodos referred to in this note can be found in Parish (2013), and the full text of Evertsz’s experiences on Mauritius in Cheke (2004).

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Préambule | Les mystères d’un nom | Dodoland | Témoins oculaires | Des contradictions évidentes | Premières légendes | Derniers témoins | Physionomie du Dodo | Le Dodo de Prague | Le Dodo de Surat | Le Dodo d'Amsterdam | Des Dodos blancs | L'image déformée d'une image déformée | Où est la vérité ? | Quels vestiges ? | Mais d'où sort-il cet oiseau ? | Injustice pour tous les autres | Les tortues géantes Cylindraspis | Quel régime alimentaire ? | Symbiose avec les tortues ? | Le Dodo d'Alice |Frère du Dodo| Découvertes du solitaire | Evolution | As dead as the Dodo ? | Conclusion ? | Bibliographie | Questionnaire destiné aux scolaires | Le Dodo a désormais son Musée virtuel | Réactions | Presse | Contemporains disparus | Dodo and solitaires, myiths and reality | Texte de Buffon consacré au Dronte | Louis Etienne Thirioux | Short communications | Emmanuel Richen sonne "Le Reveil du dodo" | Le reveil du dodo | Il faut sauver le dodo | The intercultural dodo | Sous la varangue | Des dodos comme s'il en pleuvait !!!... | Le Dodo de Lausanne | Sur la piste du Dodo | Speculation, statistics, facts and the Dodo’s extinction date

Avan teks | Mister enn non | Dodoland | Temwen vizyel | Enn ta kontradiksyon | Premye lezann | Dernye temwen | Dodo la so portre | Dodo Prag la | Dodo Surat | Dodo Amsterdam | Bann Dodo blan | Zimaz enn zimaz enn zimaz,… | Kot laverite ? | Ki pe reste aster ? | Dodo la, ofe ki li ete ? | Pa Dodo selman | Bann torti zean, fami Cylindraspis | Ki zot ti pe manze ? | Ki zot ti pe manze ? | Sinbyoz1 ek torti ? | Dodo Alice | Dodo la so frer | Dekuvert soliter | Evolisyon | Konklizyon ? | Bibliographie | Kestyoner pu bann zelev

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