The Dodo and the Solitaire: A Natural History (Life of the Past)

The Dodo and the Solitaire: A Natural History (Life of the Past)

Jolyon C. Parish

Language: English

Pages: 432

ISBN: B00AF685JC

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


The Dodo and the Solitaire is the most comprehensive book to date about these two famously extinct birds. It contains all the known contemporary accounts and illustrations of the dodo and solitaire, covering their history after extinction and discussing their ecology, classification, phylogenetic placement, and evolution. Both birds were large and flightless and lived on inhabited islands some 500 miles east of Madagascar. The first recorded descriptions of the dodo were provided by Dutch sailors who first encountered them in 1598—within 100 years, the dodo was extinct. So quickly did the bird disappear that there is insufficient evidence to form an entirely accurate picture of its appearance and ecology, and the absence has led to much speculation. The story of the dodo, like that of the solitaire, has been pieced together from fragments, both literary and physical, that have been carefully compiled and examined in this extraordinary volume.

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miniaturists from a single brushstroke (Den Hengst 2003). Jaha¯ngı¯r instructed Mansu¯r to paint several animal portraits. On one occasion Jaha¯ngı¯r wrote in his memoirs, the Tu¯zuk-i Jaha¯ngı¯rı¯, “As these animals [bought at Goa in 1612] appeared to me very strange, I both described them and ordered that painters should draw them in the Ja¯hangı¯rna¯ma, so that the amazement that arose from hearing of them might be increased” (quoted in Beveridge 1909, 215). Jaha¯ngı¯r’s memoirs also mention

(1995) attributed it to Gijsbert de Hondecoeter. Although undated, it has been suggested to date to 1626 (Den Hengst 2003); Müllenmeister (1985) thought that it could date to 1626–1628, following comparable works and the presence of the dodo. According to Müllenmeister (1985), the layout is typical for De Hondecoeter. It was formerly in Galerie Müllenmeister, Solingen, Germany (Müllenmeister 1985), but was subsequently sold; its current whereabouts are unknown (Den Hengst 2003). Johannes Stumpf’s

doubt, as it is the feeling of several people. (1784, 261) It seems, after the details that one has just read, that one cannot doubt the existence of this bird [Pezophaps]. But these details are due to travelers; how is it that since observers have traversed the same countries & made collections there, none found a bird which one can relate to the solitaire? The species was, it is said, destroyed: in a limited & entirely cleared island, early on; but is the Rodrigues Island & that of Bourbon,

trip to Madagascar in 1861 “the natives spoke of a bird hardly able to fly, and easily caught when once discovered, larger than a goose, but of somewhat similar form. The native name, as translated to me, signifies ‘a bird that is not a bird’” (1862, 360). Of course these were examples of mistaken identity or incorrect information, the dodo and solitaire being restricted entirely to the Mascarenes. 4.30.  The sacred goose of Sri Lanka (Tennent 1859, 487). Dodos on the Seychelles Dumont (1819),

and Hume (2008) suggested that 11 dodos had probably reached foreign countries alive, including at least 3 birds reaching England (4 if L’Estrange’s bird is considered distinct from Tradescant’s) that were preserved post mortem, and at least 3 to Holland. The Prague and SaveryDahlem dodos were considered to be different individuals. These suppositions are based on scant evidence – minor differences between descriptions and illustrations. Perhaps the best that can be surmised is as follows:

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