Presenting… 'Flight' of the Dodo

From 25 January - 22 March

This museum holds the only remaining soft tissue of the dodo known anywhere in the world. The skin of the head and foot scales on this unique specimen formed part of the founding collections of the Oxford University museums in the 17th century.


Although it is now an icon of extinction, it wasn’t until the 19th century that interest in the Oxford Dodo grew from scientific publications about the extinction of dodos from the island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean, where they were endemic.

In response to this rising interest John Duncan, Keeper of the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford - which held the dodo material at the time - commissioned a number of plaster casts of the head to share and exchange with other museums.

Early casts were presented to the British Museum in 1828; to Henri Marie Ducrotay de Blainville, one of the leading anatomists at the time, in 1835; and to Leiden Museum in 1837.

From these early exchanges and later casts - and then the sharing of casts of casts and models - virtually every major natural history museum in the world ended up with its own dodo head, helping to make the dodo the symbol of extinction that it is today.

The casts and model on display here are just some of those held by the museum. The original head is not on display due to the fragility of the heavily studied specimen.

Other features from our Presenting... series
William Burchell
Bruno Debattista’s horseshoe crab trace fossil
Museum memories
A space traveller’s arrival
Alfred Russel Wallace
William Smith
The science of disguise
Our new Collections Manager - Hilary Ketchum
The Breath of Life
Pine cones, great and small
Charles Darwin's insects
The Oxford Dodo
Fossils of the Gault Clay
A wartime gift
The other Audubon
The wonderful diversity of bees
A plesiosaur named Eve
The Worldwide Web
Dr Buckland and the Bear
Pioneers of Photography
Charles Lyell
Delightful Dung Beetles
John Obadiah Westwood
John Eddowes Bowman
All that glitters...
Daughters, wives, sisters... and scientists
Vesuvius Unlocked

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