Why is this small bone worth thousands of pounds?

Measuring only 14.5cm in length, this leg bone is estimated to sell for between £2000 and £3000.

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Why is this small bone worth thousands of pounds?

The dodo leg bone which is being auctioned © Sworders Fine Art Auctioneers

 

The blackened bone is actually the femur (upper bone in the leg) of a dodo, a species of bird that went extinct in the late 1600s.

The small dodo bone will be auctioned by Sworders Fine Art Auctioneers and its current estimate is £2000-£3000, though the company says this could be a conservative estimate.

The last time a dodo bone was auctioned was in 2013, when a fragment was sold for £6500.

“In terms of importance and rarity, the dodo is one of the great icons of extinction,” says Errol Fuller, an author and current owner of the bone.

“Perhaps not as important as a Tyrannosaurus Rex, but more so than anything else, little is known about it and only a few images survive – mostly 17th century Dutch paintings.”

The dodo was discovered in 1598 by Dutch sailors who colonised Mauritius. Within 100 years it was extinct, having been hunted for its meat and had its habitat and eggs destroyed by introduced animals, such as dogs, cats, rats and pigs.

Dodo remains in private and public collections are from separate individuals.

Skeletons are usually composites made up from bones from different birds, while models are made using feathers from other bird species, usually chickens.

 

The dodo bone is 14.5 cm long and black in colour © Sworders Fine Art Auctioneers

 

The femur for sale in the auction was discovered in 1885 in the Mare aux Songes swamp, where a number of dodo bones have been found.

The dark colour of the bone is attributed to it having been encased in plant roots whilst in the swamp.

This lot is part of the Out of the Ordinary auction collection, which includes a gigantic papier mâché stag beetle model from the 1950s, an Ouija board, and a Harry Potter presentation watch.

 

Read more wildlife news stories in BBC Wildlife Magazine

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