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Decloaking. On dodos and other pigeons, Tim wrote....

> The use of mitochondrial sequences in building phylogenies is close to
> home for me, and I have a few queries on this paper that I'll spare
> the list by not mentioning.  However, the molecular clock data is
> interesting, since it suggests a divergence time (25.6 Ma - Oligocene)
> between the dodo and solitaire that is actually older than the
> estimated creation of the islands of Mauritius and Rodrigues (6.8 -
> 7.8 Ma) based on geological data.

All I can say regarding these dates right now is.. be sceptical! There is a 
lot of stuff in press on the diversification and evolution of Indian and 
Pacific Ocean columbids and of columbiforms in general. One thing 
that is becoming clear is that members of the _Caloenas_-_Goura_ etc 
clade can (apparently) quickly evolve flightlessness and a dodo-like 
morphology when conditions allow. A dodo-like _Caloenas_ relative, 
_Natunaornis_, was described from Fiji by Trevor Worthy last year 
and while Fiji is pretty old (emergent land in the Fiji archipelago has 
been present since the end of the Oligocene at least), some of the other 
islands where these forms are found are certainly not.

> By the way, wasn't there a solitaire on Reunion too?

No, it turned out to be an ibis: currently _Threskiornis solitarius_. 
Check the archives for _Borbonibis_, though several newer papers on 
this subject have appeared since (e.g. Mourer-Chauvire et al's in the 
_Smithsonian Contributions to Paleobiology_ 89 volume). Some 
historical illustrations that purport to show a Reunion 'solitaire' 
actually depict the extinct Reunion sheldgoose _Alopochen kervozoi_. 
Again, several papers (and a whole book!) on this in press.

2001 and 2002 really have been monumental for those that work on 
flightless pigeons, and by little more than coincidence I've been 
exposed to most of this. The Booth Museum of Natural History 
(Brighton UK) is currently exhibiting a huge collection of dodo 
artwork and paraphernalia, Hume and Cheke, Cooper et al. and others 
have all published/will be publishing important new works on the 
evolution, discovery and documentation of dodos and solitaires, CGI 
dodos were produced for the Wall to Wall TV documentary, new work 
is pending on carbon dating new archaeological material from 
Mauritius and really important early works on the Mascarene fauna 
have just been discovered/rediscovered.

Incidentally, be sceptical also of the dodo and solitaire section in the 
new Pica Press _Pigeons and Doves of the World_ volume.

Darren Naish
School of Earth & Environmental Sciences
University of Portsmouth
Burnaby Building
Burnaby Road                           email: darren.naish@port.ac.uk
Portsmouth UK                          tel: 023 92846045                   
PO1 3QL                                www.palaeobiology.co.uk