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RE: Flight of the Dodo (and solitaire)

Jeff Hecht wrote:

> >Shapiro et al. (2002).  Flight of the Dodo.  Nature 295: 1683.
> It's actually Science, not Nature, as noted above

D'oh!  Still waiting for that caffeine to filter through to my brain...
Yep, it's in _Science_, not _Nature_.

> THey believe the dodo island-hopped because the ridge on which the 
> islands sit is considerably older than the islands themselves. 
> Rodrigues is thought to have reached the surface only about 1.5 
> million years ago, and the solitaire's ancestors must have flown 
> there, but 1.5 million years is enough time to lose flight.

Yeah, that makes perfect sense.  And if the dodo's didunculine relatives are
any guide, large body size may have come before total flightlessness.  I saw
a crowned pigeon once - they are among the most jaw-droppingly amazing birds
I have ever seen.

> The total divergence time between the dodo/solitaire group and the 
> southeast Asian pigeons is about 42 million years. It would be 
> interesting to test other pigeon groups on that tree for divergence 
> times, and to look for any fossil evidence that might confirm it. 

You may be able to extrapolate divergence times from Shapiro et al's tree,
which includes a broad spectrum of columbid taxa.

Ronald Orenstein wrote:

> Recent work by Dowsett-Lemaire suggests that the solitaire of Reunion 
> was apparently a flightless ibis closely related to the Sacred Ibis of 
> Africa.  

Ah yes, _Borbonornis_ (?referrable to _Threskiornis_) - it's all coming back
to me now.  I'm not even sure if the Reunion ibis was even flightless.  From
memory (from what I've read that is, not first-hand observation), there were
flightless ibises in islands of the New World (Hawaii, Caribbean).  

> Subfossil remains of the ibis are common on Reunion and dodo-like 
> remains quite absent, though early travellers who reported 
> the "solitaire" did not mention the ibis at all - suggesting that the 
> two are identical. 

As an historical curio, early travellers (or at least one early traveller)
also reported a new species of White Dodo, which was subsequently named
_Victoriornis imperialis_.  There's no evidence that this species ever
existed.  The "type specimen" for _Victoriornis_ comprises an imaginative
portrait of the beast (not even painted first-hand).



Timothy J. Williams 

USDA-ARS Researcher 
Agronomy Hall 
Iowa State University 
Ames IA 50014 

Phone: 515 294 9233 
Fax:   515 294 3163