On June 24, scientists Owen Griffiths and Julian Pender Hume revealed to Le Dimanche/L'Hebdo their discovery of fossilized remains of extinct dodos from Mauritius, containing DNA. Does this find open the way to the possible recreation of this iconic bird? They tell us more.

It’s a secret site, where a real treasure – not that of La Buse! – was discovered: dodo bones at least 400 years old or more from their extinction in Mauritius. Is it located in the North, South, West or East of the country? Lips are sealed. “You can try all you want to make me talk, but it won’t work,” Owen Griffiths responds with a burst of laughter.

The latter, conservation biologist and director of La Vanille Nature Park, and Julian Pender Hume, a British paleontologist specializing in birds, made this exceptional paleontological find on Friday June 21. And to think that it all started with a simple hunt for… extinct snails from Mauritius!

Indeed, that Friday, guided by their passion for nature and History, the two explorers had no idea that their quest for extinct snails would lead them to an extraordinary discovery. While digging under basalt stones forming a mysterious miniature cave on a site kept secret at the request of the owners, they came across these dodos bones.

“You’re probably wondering how I went looking for snails and found dodo bones?” Julian Pender Hume asks us with a laugh. “Yes, I did,” we tell him. But more importantly, we want to know how he recognized the bones.

The British paleontologist explains that the shells of extinct species of snails can indicate the presence of bones. With his expertise as a paleontologist specializing in birds, he immediately recognized that they belong to the dodo.

What bones were found? Owen Griffiths cites extremely rare bones such as femur, tibia, metatarsus and toes of three adult dodos. Considering the quality of the bones found, he adds that these bones could be even 1,000 years old. As for other dodo bones discovered, he tells us that there are some that are about 14 years old and that they are exhibited at the Natural History Museum in Port Louis.

We try again: where is the site of this find? New failure. “All I can say is that these bones were found in the Republic of Mauritius. We respect the decision of the owners to keep this place secret,” says Owen Griffiths. Our multiple attempts to find out more will remain in vain.

We learn that he visited the site in question as part of his efforts to survey all the areas suitable for snails in Mauritius. As a conservation biologist, Owen Griffiths explains that he has been interested in snail diversity for years. Snails are good indicators of environmental health and are rapidly disappearing, especially on islands, as the environment degrades. “Mauritius has lost a high percentage of its native snails,” he tells us.

Why did he return to the site, this time bringing Julian Pender Hume with him? Owen Griffiths, who holds a National Heritage Fund permit to dig for fossils, responds: “It's just part of my ongoing research. Julian was happy to join me. This gave him the opportunity to review the material from Constance – Mare-la-Chaux. »

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