The Dodo and the Solitaire
A Natural History
Publication Year: 2012
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.
Published by: Indiana University Press
Series: Life of the Past
Table of Contents
Many people have helped with this project. Where information has been generously provided they are mentioned in the main text. I would especially like to thank Anthony Cheke, Fanny Cornuault, Errol Fuller, Owen Griffi ths, Alan Grihault, Jan den Hengst, Julian Hume, Anwar Janoo, Arturo Valledor de Lozoya, and Ralfe Whistler for assistance and scholarly...
Introduction: A Melancholy Visage
The visage of the dodo, its plight, and extinction are indeed melancholic, but counter to Thomas Herbert’s statement, it is not “nature’s injurie” that is the cause of melancholy, but the destruction of the species and its habitat as a result of human activities. The pieces of this visage or picture are presented here; it is a picture that endures today. The dodo (Raphus cucullatus) and the solitaire (Pezophaps solitaria)...
Note on Translations
For ease of reading, non–English language texts have been translated, with new translations made of the accounts. Those who wish to consult the original texts are directed to “The Dodologist’s Miscellany” at http://sites .google.com/site.dodologistsmiscellany/. This resource also contains some of the derivative texts of contemporary accounts for comparison. The texts...
Notes on the Text
Dutch surnames are abbreviated, as is commonly done, so that Harmansz is Harmanszoon (Harmanszen), Evertsz is Evertszen, and so on. Names such as Reyer, Holsteyn, and Ravesteyn are spelled thus, instead of Reijer, Holsteijn, and Ravesteijn (unless they are modern names). In text relating to the Mascarenes, summer and winter refer to the...
List of Abbreviations
1: Written Accounts of the Dodo
The first eyewitnesses of the dodo to record its appearance were the Dutchmen and Zeelanders of the fleet of Admiral Jacob Cornelisz van Neck. These were part of the second expedition to the East Indies, the Tweede Schipvaart. The fleet consisted of eight ships: the flagship Mauritius (with Van Neck on board), the Amsterdam (with Vice-Admiral Wybrand van...
2: Written Accounts of the Rodrigues Solitaire
The Rodrigues solitaire was first scientifically considered as a separate species, distinct from the dodo of Mauritius, by Gmelin (1788); this distinction was later reinforced by Strickland (1844, 1848). Although Rodrigues was visited by Harmansz’s fleet in 1601, no specific mention of the solitaire was made. On the morning of September 20, 1601, they were only four leagues from Rodrigues and the yacht Duyfje was sent...
3: Contemporary Illustrations
When Kitchener (1990) arranged the contemporary dodo images in chronological order he detected a trend: earlier illustrations represented thinner birds than later ones. From this he suggested that imported specimens were confined and fed on unsuitable foods. He later (1993b) suggested that “thin” dodos had been illustrated by artists who had visited Mauritius and “fat” ones by artists who had seen only imported birds. However, suggestions...
4: Secondary Contemporary Sources and Miscellanea
The first “scientific” description of the dodo appeared in 1605. It was contained in Carolus Clusius’s Exoticorum libri decem (Exotic things in ten books), published by Franciscus II Raphelengius (Frans van Ravelingen) at the Plantin Press at Leiden. The collaboration with Plantin had allowed Clusius to publish the latest discoveries, illustrated with beautiful engravings. From the crews of Dutch ships the aged Clusius received information...
5: Anatomical Evidences [Image Plates Included]
Of the known specimens, there was a stuffed dodo in the collection of Rudolf II (the Prague dodo), a foot mentioned by Clusius as being in the collection of Pauwius (which may, or may not be the same as the foot formerly in the Royal Society collection), a head in the Gottorf collection, a stuffed bird in Tradescant’s collection, and additional specimens in the...
6: The Natural History of the Dodo and the Solitaire
Raphus. Dodos were described as being “like penguins” by the first Dutch eyewitnesses (e.g., Cornelisz 1598). They were said to be “very fat” (Van Heemskerk 1598; Van West-Zanen 1648) and “well fed” (Van West-Zanen 1648). Bontekoe (1646) remarked that they were so fat they could hardly go, and that when they walked their rump almost touched the ground. ...
7: Afterword: Memories of Green
There is much conflict among descriptions and among illustrations. Furthermore, some evidence is of uncertain accuracy. This makes drawing definitive conclusions difficult. Instead of giving definitive answers to questions such as what color the dodo was and when it became extinct, this book reinforces that these facts remain ambiguous. Both the dodo and solitaire displayed osteological variability and Pezophaps, at least, variation...