Brief Summary

The Raphidae is a clade of extinct flightless birds now known to include just two species: the Rodrigues solitaire, also spelled Rodriquez solitaire, (Pezophaps solitaria) and the dodo (Raphus cucullatus).  The Réunion solitaire (previously Raphus solitarius), historically considered a third extinct bird in the family Raphidae, is now Threskiornis solitarius, in the ibis family Threskiornithidae (Wikipedia 3 September 2014). 

The raphids inhabited the Mascarene Archipeligo east of Madagascar, with the dodo endemic to Mauritius and the Rodrigues solitaire endemic to Rodrigues Island.  Human colonization of the islands in the 17th century drove both species to extinction as a consequence of hunting and the introduction of non-native predators of the birds and their eggs.  The dodo is commonly cited as extinct in 1662, the date of its last described sighting, but some possible sightings were made as late as 1688.  The Rodrigues solitaire was certainly extinct by 1778 (Wikipedia 3 September 2014; BirdLife International 2012).

These birds reached an impressive size and are cited as examples of Foster's rule of island biogeography, which posits that small animals colonizing islands tend to grow exceptionally large compared to mainland relatives as a result of isolation from predators (Whittaker 1998; Wikipedia 31 August 2014; MacArthur and Wilson 1967).  Their gigantism, evolution of flightlessness, and other morphological changes that occurred as a result of island colonization has long confounded their taxonomic placement.  They have been classified with many bird families, including the ratites and raptors.  Recent genetic analyses using mitochondrial and nuclear DNA samples now support the sister relationship between the dodo and the solitaire as well as definitively placing them within the dove/pigeon family Columbidae (Shapiro et al. 2002; Pereira et al. 2007).

  • BirdLife International 2012. Pezophaps solitaria. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.2. Downloaded on 17 September 2014 from http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/22690062/0
  • MacArthur, R. H. and E. O. Wilson, 1967. The Theory of Island Biogeography. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press. pp. 203 pp. ISBN 978-0-691-08836-5.
  • Pereira, S. L.; Johnson, K. P.; Clayton, D. H.; Baker, A. J., 2007. Mitochondrial and nuclear DNA sequences support a Cretaceous origin of Columbiformes and a dispersal-driven radiation in the Paleogene. Systematic Biology 56 (4): 656–672. doi:10.1080/10635150701549672.
  • Shapiro, B.; Sibthorpe, D.; Rambaut, A.; Austin, J.; Wragg, G. M.; Bininda-Emonds, O. R. P.; Lee, P. L. M.; Cooper, A., 2002. Flight of the Dodo. Science 295 (5560): 1683. doi:10.1126/science.295.5560.1683.
  • Whittaker, R.J. (1998). Island biogeography: ecology, evolution, and conservation. Oxford University Press, UK. pp. 73–75. ISBN 978-0-19-850020-9.
  • Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 3 September 2014. “Raphinae”. Retrieved September 18, 2014 from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Raphinae&oldid=624074668
  • Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 31 August 2014. Island Gigantism. Retrieved September 18, 2014 from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Island_gigantism&oldid=623546779
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