World Museum Liverpool's Green Pigeon is unique and related to Dodo, say scientists

By Culture24 Reporter | 27 August 2014

One of Liverpool's most famous feathered specimens is related to the Dodo, new research in Australia reveals

A photo of an ancient green bird standing on a rock
Joseph Smit, Spotted Green Pigeon. From Bulletin of the Liverpool Museums (1898)© Courtesy National Museums Liverpool
Extracting and purifying tiny DNA fragments from the feathers of the World Museum’s 230-year-old Green Pigeon, Australian scientists have concluded that the Liverpool specimen is both unique and related to the extinct, flightless Dodo of Mauritius.

The bird came from either the Indian subcontinent, south-east Asia or Oceania. Its fragile, light-sensitive body is cared for by zoology experts in environmentally-controlled conditions behind the scenes at the museum.

A photo of a long thin ancient bird specimen placed on a white surface with a label
The Spotted Green Pigeon specimen© Courtesy National Museums Liverpool
"We are very pleased that the extinct Spotted Green Pigeon, often known as the 'Liverpool Pigeon' because of its home is in the magnificent bird collections of National Museums Liverpool, finally has its correct place in the world of birds,” said Clem Fisher, the resident Curator of Vertebrate Zoology.

“The ground-breaking genetic research, analysing small fragments of Ancient DNA from tiny pieces of feather, proves the Spotted Green Pigeon is unique and a distant relation to the Nicobar Pigeon, the Rodrigues Solitaire and the Dodo of Mauritius.”

Dr Tim Heupink, who carried out the research at the Environmental Futures Research Institute at Griffith University, said the discoveries would allow new and previously known birds to be identified more swiftly.

“Ultimately this will help us to measure and understand the extinction of local populations and entire species,” he added.

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