The dodo has been extinct since the late 17th century, but that doesn’t mean scientists have forgotten about it. Well-preserved dodo specimens are rare, but researchers have recently managed to track down enough partial fragments to create digital reconstructions of dodo brains and now, a full dodo skeleton. 

Based on two skeletons discovered in 1899 and 1910—one of which is the only complete dodo skeleton known to exist—researchers from London’s Natural History Museum have created the most complete digital dodo skeleton, opening up new avenues of research into dodo anatomy. It’s the first time researchers have been able to show accurate proportions of the bird’s bones, and several bones included have never been described before in dodos. The flightless bird had kneecaps, ankles, and wrist bones, the reconstruction shows. 

One of the bird specimens, almost complete but possibly cobbled together from multiple dodos, has been on display at the Durban Natural Science Museum in South Africa for almost a century, but hasn’t been studied before. The museum “had no idea of the profound significance and value of this priceless specimen,” Durban ornithology curator David Allan said in a press statement

Scanning the bird. Image credit: © KF Rijsdijk

The 3D reconstruction of the bird, the first detailed anatomical description to appear in 150 years, was created with laser scans. The researchers hope that the new atlas will yield greater insights into the dodo and how it fit into its ecosystem.