The Dodos were not as stupid as their reputation showed. New research reveals that these extinct, flightless birds are probably as intelligent as modern pigeons and have a better sense of smell.
Dodos (Raphus cucullatus) had vanished in 1662, 100 years after their home on the islands of Mauritius became a destination for Dutch explorers. The birds, unfamiliar to humans, were initially fearless. This made them easy picks for hunters and also strengthened their reputation as dullard.
A new computed tomography (CT) scan of a rare, intact dodo skull reveals that these birds have brain-body sizes similar to those of modern pigeons.
“It’s not impressively large or impressively small — it’s exactly the size you would estimate for body size,” lead researcher Eugenia Gold of Stony Brook University said in a statement, referring to Dodo’s brain. as a proxy for intelligence, dodos probably had a similar level of intelligence to pigeons. ”
Scans showed a brain compared to the body-to-brain ratio of modern pigeons. Unusually, the brain’s olfactory bulb, which is responsible for processing odors, was particularly large. With their diet of Dodos, fruit, shellfish and small land animals, Gold and his colleagues may have relied on the heavy smell to find food. In contrast, flying birds tend to have smaller olfactory bulbs and larger optical bulbs, because they are more dependent on sight to navigate and find prey.
Another strange feature was an extreme twist in one of The Dodo’s semicircular canals. These inner ear organs are responsible for balance; the researchers wrote that the unique Bend is merely a quirk of variability, while semicircular-shaped channels are less important to a flightless bird than their flying relatives. But to test this idea, researchers need to examine the semicircular canals of many dodos.