Tuesday 30 May 2017

Near-complete skeleton of dodo sells for £346,300 at auction

The almost complete dodo skeleton at Summers Place Auctions in Billingshurst, West Sussex
The almost complete dodo skeleton at Summers Place Auctions in Billingshurst, West Sussex

The first near-complete skeleton of a flightless dodo bird to come up for sale in nearly 100 years has sold for a total of £346,300 at auction.

The 95% finished composite skeleton was painstakingly constructed by a man who started buying bones from private collections and auctions in the 1970s.

The collector decided to part with the item, and it fetched a hammer price of £280,000, or £346,300 with buyers' premium, at Summers Place Auctions as part of its fourth Evolution sale in Billingshurst, West Sussex, on Tuesday.

Errol Fuller, natural history curator at Summers Place Auctions, said the piece was an "amazingly rare" example of "one of the great icons of extinction".

An auction house spokeswoman said the buyer was a private collector who successfully bid over the phone.

She said: "The dodo bones had been collected by a dodo enthusiast for 40 years until he realised he had enough bones to create an almost complete skeleton of this extinct bird.

"There are only about 12 similarly complete skeletons in existence and they are all in museums around the world."

Dodos, which were popularised by their role in the novel Alice's Adventures In Wonderland, grew to 3ft (1m) tall and were flightless birds, with pigeons as their closest relatives.

First seen by Dutch sailors in 1598, they lived on the island of Mauritius and became extinct around 70 years after their discovery.

The Mauritian government has since banned exports of dodo bones, and auctioneers believe it highly unlikely that another composite skeleton will come up for sale again.

Summers Place has a track record of selling unique skeletons.

In November 2013, it sold a long-necked diplodocus longus dinosaur skeleton to the Natural History Museum of Denmark for £400,000.

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