Dodo skeleton a grim reminder of man's impact on nature

Last Updated Nov 25, 2016 1:05 PM EST

BILLINGSHURST, England -- More than a collection of old bones was on the block at one England auction house.

Those bones, once assembled, formed the world’s most famous dead bird, the dodo.

phillips-climate-dodo-brighter.jpg

Skeleton of odd bird ruthlessly hunted by men into extinction fetchs $416,000 at U.K. auction

CBS News

“And then you get the phrases like ‘dead as a dodo.’ It just rolls off the tongue sort of beautifully really, doesn’t it?” said dodo expert Errol Fuller.

The phrase stuck but not just because it was catchy, according to Fuller, but because the dodo’s extinction is so well documented.

Hungry European sailors found the bird on the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius in the late 1500s. Within about 80 years, the hapless and significantly flightless bird was gone.

The dodo has been extinct for more than 300 years, but it is still the most important symbol of what mankind can do to nature if it isn’t careful, or if it doesn’t care.

Yet the dodo and its lessons live again.

It’s hard to put a price on a lesson, but auction house owner Rupert van der Werff said he was selling an idea.

“It really brings it home that we can have a big impact on the environment,” van der Werff said.

Make no bones about it.

phillips-climate-dodo-nfa2.jpg

The bird on the block

CBS News

“Animal and bird species are being made extinct at a faster rate than ever. And that is, one way or another, our fault, or mankind’s fault. So whether we’re actually learning the lesson, I don’t think I’d like to say.” Fuller said.

Or whether humans will become the next dodo?

“Well that’s a possibility too, a very strong possibility I guess,” Fuller said.

That bird skeleton sold for £288,000, about $416,000 with commissions.

A big price for a big lesson.

  • Mark Phillips

    Mark Phillips is CBS News senior foreign correspondent, based in London.