Dodo skeleton sells for £280,000 at auction

image copyrightSummer's Place Auctions
image captionThe bones were retrieved from the Mare aux Songes swamp in Mauritius in the 19th Century

A near-complete skeleton of a dodo has been sold at auction for £280,000.

The bones of the extinct, flightless bird were sold at Summers Place Auctions, in Billingshurst, West Sussex, to a private collector.

The remains were compiled by a dodo enthusiast over four decades until he had enough bones to create a 95% complete skeleton.

Humans are thought to have driven the bird to extinction in the 17th Century so rapidly that few traces remain.

The auction house said the total paid would be £346,300, ($430,662) which included its fee.

It said there were only 12 similarly complete skeletons in existence and all were held by museums.

image copyrightScience Photo Library
image captionSketches and paintings exist of the extinct dodo, but experts insist there is no way of telling how accurate they are

'Bigger than a turkey'

The dodo was a flightless bird once found on Mauritius, an island in the Indian Ocean.

It was first seen by Portuguese sailors in the first decade of the 16th Century but was soon wiped out by humans and the animals they introduced. The dodo was extinct by 1681.

Bigger than a turkey, it was thought to weigh about 23kg (50lb), with blue-grey plumage, a big head, a nine-inch (23cm) blackish bill with reddish sheath forming the hooked tip, small useless wings, stout yellow legs and a tuft of curly feathers high on its rear end.

All that remains of the dodo is a head and foot at Oxford, a foot in the British Museum, a head in Copenhagen, and skeletons - in varying degrees of completion - at museums in Europe, the United States and Mauritius.

Source: Encyclopaedia Britannica

The private collector offering it for sale only lacked part of the skull and one set of claws when he assembled the specimen in the early 2000s.

The majority of the bones in the specimen were recovered from the Mare aux Songes swamp, in south-eastern Mauritius, in the 19th Century.

The Mauritian government has since banned all exports of dodo bones.

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