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"Scientists in raptures over flightless Fred"

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© Reuters 2007. All Rights Reserved
"Scientists in raptures over flightless Fred"  
Friday 29 June  2007, 14:09 GMT

By Ed Harris
BOIS CHERI, Mauritius (Reuters)  © 
The remains of a dodo found in a cave beneath bamboo and tea  plantations in 
Mauritius offer the best chance yet to learn about the extinct  flightless 
bird, a scientist said on Friday. The discovery was made earlier this  month in 
the Mauritian highlands but the location was kept secret until the  recovery of 
the skeleton, nicknamed "Fred", was completed on Friday. Four men  guarded 
the site overnight.

Julian Hume, a palaeontologist at  London's Natural History Museum, told 
Reuters the remains were likely to yield  excellent DNA and other vital clues, 
because they were found intact, in  isolation, and in a cave.
"The geneticists who want to get their hands on  this will be skipping down 
the street," he said, after bringing the last of the  remains to the surface.  
Given the nickname "Fred" after the 65-year-old  who found them, the remains 
should provide the first decent specimens of dodo  DNA, he said.

"Then you can work out how it actually got to Mauritius, because it  must 
have originally flown here before evolving into flightlessness and the big,  
bird that we know," he said.  "We know it's a giant pigeon," he  added.

It the first discovery of dodo remains away from the coastal regions,  
suggesting that the bird, extinct since the 17th century, lived all over the  
Ocean island, he said.  Hume said the dodo was almost certainly  finished off 
by animals introduced by Europeans about 400 years ago. Theories  that it was 
hunted to extinction by the Dutch were "total nonsense", he said,  adding 
that the remains were highly fragile.  "If you try and pick it up,  it just 
apart," he said. "You won't see a mounted, beautiful thing from  this."
© Reuters 2007. All Rights Reserved.

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