The dodo is, indeed, as dead as a dodo. But if you’ve got half a million bucks laying around, you can buy a near-complete skeleton of the extinct flightless bird for the first time in a century.
A 95-percent complete skeleton of a dodo is going up for sell at Summers Place Auctions in Billingshurst, UK, on November 22. Auction house director Rupert van der Werff told the Associated Press that the skeleton is likely to go for somewhere between £300,000 and £500,000 ($373,630 to $622,780).
The auction house say it's the first time a near-complete dodo skeleton has been publicly sold since 1914. This skeleton is a composite, meaning its bones have come from various different specimens and then assembled together. Nevertheless, the specimen is still incredibly precious.
Once an inhabitant on the island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean, these 1-meter (3.3-foot) tall birds famously went extinct in the 1660s, following the arrival of European colonizers just 75 years before. They were killed so quickly that very few bones were collected. However, around 1865, a wealth of dodo bones were discovered in the swamps of Mare aux Songes in Southern Mauritius. Following this, the Mauritian government banned the international export of dodo bones.
There are only a few partial skeletons of the bird, including a skull in Copenhagen, a beak in Prague, a foot at the Natural History Museum in London, and a head and foot in Oxford, UK. There is just one complete non-composite known to exist in the world, which is on display at a museum in Port Louis, Mauritius.
"Most museums had acquired their dodos many years ago and no relatively complete skeleton has been put together since the early 20th century," said Errol Fuller, the natural history curator at Summers Place Auctions, according to The Guardian. “When Summers Place Auctions was offered this dodo, you can imagine my excitement. I am sure I won’t be the only one among dodo experts who thinks that this is an amazingly rare opportunity for the acquisition of one of the great icons of extinction."
The sale of dodo bones, as with all endangered or extinct species, is often a cause of contention among zoologists, as you can see in this University College London blog post about the sale of two dodo bones in 2013.