Raphus solitarius

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Kingdom Animalia

Image: plate 25 from Extinct and Vanishing Birds of the World (1907) by Lord Lionel Walter Rothschild. This image is in the public domain because its copyright has expired. This applies to the European Union, Canada, the United States and those countries with a copyright term of life of the author plus 70 years.

Phylum Chordata 
Class Aves (birds)
Order Columbiformes (pigeons)
Family Raphidae (dodos and solitaires)
Genus Raphus
Non-Recognised Species Raphus solitarius
Authority (Sélys-Longchamps 1848)
 
Recognised Species Threskiornis solitarius
Authority (Sélys-Longchamps 1848)
 
TEW Status Not Recognised (NR), Year assessed: 2010
IUCN Status Not Evaluated (NE)
 
English Name Reunion Solitaire, White Dodo, Reunion Dodo
Dutch Name Réunion Solitaire, Réunion Dodo, Witte Dodo
Finnish Name Reunionin-saaren dodo
French Name Dronte de la Réunion
German Name Réunion-Solitär, Réunion-Einsiedler
Spanish Name Solitario de Reunión
Italian Name Dodo della Réunion, Solitario della Réunion
 
Comments The Réunion solitaire (Raphus solitarius) is no longer recognised as a distinct species by The Extinction Website. This page is about the non-recognised species Raphus solitarius, which is now seen as a totally different extinct species, the Réunion Sacred Ibis (Threskiornis solitarius).
 
Taxonomy

Mourer-Chauviré, et al. (1995. Nature 373:568) recently found abundant remains of an extinct ibis (Borbonibis latipes) that was closely related to Threskiornis, but with a shorter, less curved bill.  An old account reported that the bill of the Reunion Solitaire was "like that of a Woodcock, but larger", leading to the suggestion that the Reunion Solitaire might have been an ibis, although it was thought to have been flightless, and the fossil ibis bones do not indicate flightless ness. However, the authors propose to designate the fossil as Threskiornis solitarius, with Borbonicus latipes as a junior synonym. Thus, the Réunion Solitaire may now be called the Réunion Flightless Ibis and transferred to the Threskiornithidae. This bird was apparently a flightless ibis closely related to the Sacred Ibis of Africa, though early travellers who reported the "solitaire" did not mention an ibis at all.

Image: Réunion Flightless Ibis, Threskiornis solitarius. Created by Peter Maas for The Extinction Website. This image has been released under the Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives 3.0 Licence.

 
Range & Habitat The Réunion solitaire was endemic to the island Réunion (to France), which is a part of the Mascarene Islands in the Indian Ocean. (BirdLife International 2004)

Image: map showing the location of the island of Réunion, the former range of the Réunion Sacred Ibis. Created by Peter Maas for The Extinction Website. This image has been released under the Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives 3.0 Licence. This applies worldwide.

 
History & Population Réunion Solitaire or White Dodo is known only from paintings and descriptions. It was described as Raphus solitarius by Baron Michel Edmond de Sélys Longchamps in 1848.

Like the Rodrigues Solitaire the exact date it became extinct is not known. Its extinction can be placed in the early 18th century with the last account being that of Feuilley in 1705 (Cheke 1987; BirdLife International 2004). Bary de Saint Vincent visited the Island in 1801 and reported that no members of the species had been seen for some time.

Image (left): Painting by Pieter Wothoos (1654-1693). 

Image (right): water-colour drawing by Pieter Holsteyn the elder (1580-1662).

These images are in the public domain because its copyright has expired. This applies to the European Union, Canada, the United States and those countries with a copyright term of life of the author plus 70 years.

 
Museum Specimens The Réunion Solitaire is only known from old drawings and stories. There are no remains of this bird found. 
 
Relatives

If a true species, its (also extinct) nearest relatives were the Rodrigues Solitaire (Pezophaps solitaria) which lived on the island Rodriguez and the famous Dodo (Raphus cucullatus) which lived on the island Mauritius.

Researchers at the University of Oxford, UK, have taken samples from a preserved specimen in an attempt to uncover the extinct bird's family tree in 2002. The Oxford team worked with the Natural History Museum to collect and analyse genetic material from a Rodrigues solitaire, the dodo, and from another 35 kinds of living pigeon and dove. Their analysis confirmed that the  Rodriguez Solitaire and the dodo were, as expected, each others closest relative. What is less expected is that these two extinct flightless giants are nested deep inside the pigeon family tree. In other words, dodos are more closely related to some flying pigeons than those flying pigeons are to other flying pigeon. Among living pigeons, the dodos are most close to the Nicobar Pigeon (Caloenus nicobarica), a beautiful pigeon from South East Asia. Almost as closely related are the crowned pigeons of New Guinea. If the Réunion solitaire has been a true dodo species it would have been related to these pigeons as well.

Photo: Nicobar Pigeon at Bristol Zoo, Bristol, England. Photographed by Adrian Pingstone in August 2003 and placed in the public domain by the copyright holder.

 
Links

The Mauritius Encyclopedia - The Dodo Family Secrets - DNA yields dodo family secrets.

The Mauritius Encyclopedia - Dodo was really a pigeon.

BBC News | SCI/TECH | DNA yields dodo family secrets.

 

References

(Complete website)

BirdLife International 2004. Threskiornis solitarius. In: IUCN 2006. 2006 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 11 February 2007.

Cheke, A. S. (1987) An ecological history of the Mascarene Islands, with particular reference to extinctions and introductions of land vertebrates. Pp. 5-89 in A. W. Diamond, ed. Studies of Mascarene island birds. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press.

Hachisuka, M. (1953) The Dodo and kindred birds. London: Witherby.

Mourer-Chauviré, C. and Moutou, F. (1987) Découverte d'une forme récemment éteinte d'ibis endémique insulaire de l'île de la Réunion Borbonibis latipes n. gen. n. sp. C. R. Acad. Sci. Paris. Serie D (II) 305: 419-423.

Mourer-Chauviré, C., Bour, R. and Ribes, S. (1995) Was the Solitaire of Réunion an ibis? Nature 373: 568.

Storer, R. W. (1970) Independent evolution of the Dodo and the Solitaire. Auk 87: 369-370.

Last updated: 11th April 2010.

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