Dodo bird

Facts about dodo bird

We found 14 facts about dodo bird

An extinct species that may be making a comeback

The dodo bird (Raphus cucullatus) has gained notoriety as a symbol of extinction and extermination. It inhabited the remote island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean, where, devoid of natural predators, it quickly became an easy target for man and the animals he brought to the island. The story of the dodo bird, at once tragic and instructive, demonstrates the fragility of ecosystem balance and the consequences of irresponsible human interaction with the environment.

The dodo bird is one of the most iconic creatures that have gone down in the history of extinct species. It has become a certain symbol present in the coat of arms of Mauritius, a character appearing in the plot of “Alice in Wonderland,” or many children’s books, from which toddlers learn that such a bird once existed.

It existed more than three hundred years ago, but it may be making a comeback, as scientists are making efforts to recreate the species as early as 2028.

Dodo bird
The dodo bird is an extinct flightless bird that lived on the island of Mauritius, in the Indian Ocean.

It was endemic there, as was its cousin the solitary drontium (Pezophaps solitaria) from the neighboring island of Rodrigues (it became extinct around 1790). The dodo was a large bird of the pigeon family (Columbidae), a subfamily of the didines, the frugivores (Raphinae).

The closest living relative of the dodo, and the only living representative of the genus Caloenas, is the Nicobar pigeon (Caleoenas nicobarica), also known as the common Nicobaric or Nicobaric pigeon. Found in Southeast Asia, it avoids human-inhabited areas and is most often found on small islands and in the coastal zone of larger landmasses.

We can only determine the appearance of the dodo bird from subfossils - not fully fossilized.

Subfossils are the remains of living organisms that died on the geological scale more recently, in the Holocene (a geological epoch that continues into modern times) or even in historical times. Such remains have managed to undergo only partial fossilization, that is, transformation into fossils.

Based on these remains, it can be concluded that the dodo measured about 62.6-75 centimeters and may have weighed 10.6-17.5 kilograms. Other data on appearance, and plumage, were obtained from drawings and written accounts dating back to the 17th century, which were based on observations of living specimens.

The dodo bird is depicted with brownish-gray plumage, yellow massive legs ending in black claws, a tuft of feathers on the tail, and a large gray naked head with a downward curving beak in black, green, and yellow. Within the species, there was sexual dimorphism-males were larger than females and had larger beaks.

The earliest records dating back to the 16th century mention the distinctive appearance of the dodo’s wings.

Only three or four black ailerons were visible in their place. The bones of the wings reveal that these limbs were very small and the birds could not fly. The dodo bird also could not fly because of its weak chest muscles, small, underdeveloped sternum, and wide pelvic bone. Flying was not necessary because the dodo had no natural predators in Mauritius.

The researchers revealed that the dodo bird had a highly developed sense of smell.

It is likely that a good sense of smell enabled the birds to find seeds buried deep in the ground. Their strongly built legs equipped with claws probably helped them do this.

The shape of the 20-centimeter-long beak indicates that these birds were seed-eaters.

The only description of the dodo’s diet dates back to 1631. It is placed in a Dutch letter, which was long thought to be lost, but was found in 2017. The letter reveals that the birds fed on fallen fruit, possibly also nuts, seeds, bulbs, and roots. It has also been suggested that they may have eaten crabs and crustaceans.

Their favorite food was likely the seeds of the Sideroxylon grandiflorum tree, also known as the tambalacoque tree or dodo tree. This is a long-lived tree species in the family Saporaceae, endemic to Mauritius. It was claimed that the dodo ate the fruit of the tambalacoque, and that seeds passing through its digestive tract gained the ability to germinate. With the extinction of the dodo, the trees also began to die out. Scientific research has not confirmed the theory of a relationship between the extinction of trees and the dodo bird.

The dodo bird probably built nests on the ground.

He did not feel threatened because there were no predatory mammals or other natural enemies. He was a flightless species, so he built his nests on the ground without fear of attack. It probably laid only one egg per breeding season.

It is believed that the dodo used a reproductive strategy, the so-called K-life strategy, based on producing a small number of offspring, looked after for a long time (a strategy used primarily by birds and mammals). This protected the species from resource depletion and allowed them to better prepare their offspring for survival. It is also presumed that the dodo, as a tropical bird exhibiting a slower growth rate, took longer to reach full maturity.

It is believed that dodo chicks were fed so-called bird’s milk.

In pigeons, the mucous membrane of the goiter contains glands that, a few days before the young hatch, produce a secretion in both parents that is called bird’s milk. This secretion plays a role similar to mammalian milk and is essential for the development of young pigeons. The dodo, as a didines, a giant pigeon, could also feed its chicks in this way.

An egg allegedly belonging to a dodo bird is kept in the East London Museum in South Africa.

It was donated to the museum by its employee, Marjorie Courtenay-Latimer, whose aunt received the egg from a ship captain who claimed to have found it in the marshes of Mauritius. In 2010, the museum’s curator proposed genetic testing to determine its authenticity.

Traditionally, the dodo bird is considered a massive, clumsy bird.

In old drawings, the dodo was depicted as an obese bird living in captivity (in the early 17th century, the Indian painter Mansur created one of the few realistic portraits of a living dodo). Because of Mauritius’ dry and rainy season, it is presumed that the birds gained weight during the rainy season to survive the dry season, when food was scarce. Birds kept in captivity had food in abundance, so their appearance could indicate a massive, clumsy, trusting one. They were trusting because until humans arrived on the island they knew no danger.

The first mention of these birds in Europe comes from the second voyage of the Dutch fleet to the East Indies.

In 1598, during a storm, the ships separated and part of the fleet landed in Mauritius. The crew members, who went in search of water and supplies, returned with several flightless birds. The island was uninhabited at the time, and the birds, knowing no danger, were not afraid of humans.

The sailors described the bird as “twice as big as swans.” They also described the meat as not very tasty, requiring very long cooking to make it edible.

Realistic illustrations of the dodo bird were recorded on the ship’s log by the sailor Gelderlandt in 1601-1603.

The diary contained seven sketches of living birds. Ornithologist Alfred Newton published them in 1896. These sketches show a clumsy bird with an almost rounded body and a short tail consisting of several feathers.

The name dodo, adopted in the English-speaking world, first appeared in an account by the travel writer Thomas Herbert in 1634.

He assumed that it came from Portuguese. In this language, the word “dodo” means “stupid.”

Dodos became extinct about 350 years ago.

Undisturbed by anyone, the birds lived on an island uninhabited by humans from about 10 million years ago until the 17th century. When the first Europeans arrived in Mauritius, they also brought animals there (including pugs and rats), which, apart from humans, became a threat to the dodo bird. It took less than a hundred years for these birds to become completely extinct.

American scientists will recreate a species that became extinct in the 17th century.

Colossal Biosciences, a company specializing in biotechnology and genetic engineering, announced its plan to recreate this species. The company’s plans are now well advanced, and a team of scientists managed to sequence the bird’s DNA. Such DNA will be placed in specific cells of the dodo’s closest living relative, the Nicobarian monkey. Skeptics say that this will not bring back the dodo, but only a bird that closely resembles it. However, the creators of the project believe that this “resurrection” is to symbolize the enormous effort that has been put into nature conservation. This is to take place in 2028.

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