Near-complete dodo skeleton fetches £280,000 at auction

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The dodo skeleton is the first to go on sale in almost a century(Credit: Summer Place Auctions)

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The only near-complete dodo bird skeleton in private hands went on sale today at Summers Place Auctions, where it fetched £280,000 as part of the Sussex-based natural history auction house's fourth Evolution sale. According to the company, the composite skeleton made from the remains of different birds is 95-percent complete and is one of only 14 such dodo skeletons in the world.

According to the BBC, the dodo skeleton was sold to an unnamed private collector for £346,300 ($430,410), including fees – that's £280,000 (US$348,000) net. It was made by another private collector, who had been gathering dodo bones since the 1970s and by the turn of the century he had enough to build a complete skeleton except for a claw and part of the skull.

Summer Place says it's highly unlikely that another such skeleton will ever be offered for sale. There's only one complete skeleton made from the bones of a single bird and a dozen more composites, but all of these are in museum collections. The government of the island of Mauritius, which was the dodo's only habitat, prohibits the export of dodo bones.

The dodo bird is famous for being synonymous with extinction. Discovered by Dutch sailors in 1598, the turkey-sized flightless relative of the pigeon had evolved on the Indian Ocean island in the absence of predators and showed no fear of man or strange animals. Due to hunting and the introduction of dogs, cats, pigs, rats and monkeys to Mauritius, the dodo was killed off in 70 years.

The composite skeletons seen today were made from bones gathered from the Mare aux Songes swamp after being discovered by local schoolteacher George Clark in 1865.

Source: Summer Place Auctions (PDF)

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