The Dodo and the Solitaire: A Natural History (Life of the Past)

The Dodo and the Solitaire: A Natural History (Life of the Past)

Jolyon C. Parish

Language: English

Pages: 432

ISBN: B00AF685JC

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


The Dodo and the Solitaire is the most comprehensive book to date about these two famously extinct birds. It contains all the known contemporary accounts and illustrations of the dodo and solitaire, covering their history after extinction and discussing their ecology, classification, phylogenetic placement, and evolution. Both birds were large and flightless and lived on inhabited islands some 500 miles east of Madagascar. The first recorded descriptions of the dodo were provided by Dutch sailors who first encountered them in 1598—within 100 years, the dodo was extinct. So quickly did the bird disappear that there is insufficient evidence to form an entirely accurate picture of its appearance and ecology, and the absence has led to much speculation. The story of the dodo, like that of the solitaire, has been pieced together from fragments, both literary and physical, that have been carefully compiled and examined in this extraordinary volume.

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Mundy has other dodological links: he visited both Tradescant’s and Hubert’s collections in 1634 and 1639, respectively (see chapter 5), although he makes no mention of any dodo specimens. He also visited the Anatomy School, Oxford, in 1639, where he saw “dodoes” (see chapter 5). Von Mandelslo’s Account In a French translation of the travels of Johann Albrecht von Mandelslo (1659), who, incidentally, also visited Surat, there is a description of the dodo in the section on Mauritius: One sees

there also a quantity of herons, as also another type of birds of the size of the swan, which do not have wings or tail, & have such hard flesh that there is no heat that can cook it. (Olearius 1659, taken from the second edition of 1666, 523) On March 26, 1639, it was decided that the Mary, on which Von Mandelslo was traveling, should stop at Mauritius. However, although Rodrigues was sighted, the Mary did not visit Mauritius. In the original 1651 edition of Von Mandelslo’s travels the dodo is

the Amsterdam and the Utrecht departed from Bantam on January 21, 1600, stopped at St. Helena from May 17 to 21 and at Written Accounts of the Dodo 7 Ascension from May 30 to 31, and eventually arrived back at Texel in September of that year. Upon their return the crews were able to share their accounts of Mauritius and a more comprehensive report could be published. Only two copies of the 1600 edition, published by Cornelis Claesz (Anon. 1600), remain; these are now in New York (New York

was adopted by many as the name for the bird. This was perhaps in part due to the several editions of Herbert’s work, and its derivatives (see chapter 1). Dronte The name Dronten was first used in one of the Gelderland journals of 1601. The most probable origin for the name is from the Middle Dutch verb dronten, “to be swollen” (related to drenten and drinten; Newton and Gadow 1896; Falk and Torp 191026), which is related to the English drone and in German drohne (Strickland 1848). Another

wyvern, indicating that some specimens, at least, were embellished. It was previously thought that the “fat” appearance and crouched posture of many dodo illustrations was due to the birds being crammed into crates and fed a poor diet or overfed (Lüttschwager 1959a; Van Wissen 1995; Gill and West 2001; see chapter 6 for further discussion). Staub described “newly arrived birds in their still ankylosed and crouched posture resulting from months of travelling in crates” (1996, 90). It was

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