Smart dodo

Published: Monday 15 November 1993

Dogged by obesity it never pos THOUGHT the dodo was a lumbering, fat bird? You might be mistaken, says Andrew Kitchner, curator at the Royal Museum of Scotland, who has discovered that early illustrations of the dodo, which became extinct in the 17th century, reveal a distinctly thin bird, while later drawings showed the more familiar podgy variety (New Scientist, Vol 139, No 1888).

To explain the discrepancy, Kitchner opines that the dodos of the later drawings were birds that had grown fat in captivity. He measured hundreds of dodo bones kept in museums and found that a reconstruction of the bird from the size of the bones remarkably resembles the slimmer portrayals of the bird. The bone analysis also suggests that the bird was capable of running fast.

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