The Dodo was a sitting duck. The bird was fat and flightless, clueless and incompetent. In practice, it was a walking evolutionary mistake that was prepared to die. When the Dutch colonized the small island of Dodon at the end of the 16th century, the eccentricity of land entered directly into the waiting arms of hungry sailors and settlers.
Less than 100 years later extinct.
At least, that’s how the story usually goes. There’s only one small problem with this tale of shopworn extinction: where it’s completely wrong. The last few stars, anatomical and ecological studies have shed new light on the dodo and its history and saved the bird’s dismal reputation.
“Dodos have always been considered a funny animal. L Julian Hume, an avian paleontologist at the Natural History Museum in London. “This bird is perfectly adapted to the environment.”
Belonging to the dove family, Dodo’s roots remain something of a mystery. About 8 million years ago, the small volcanic island of Mauritius was formed in the Indian Ocean. Soon after, scientists believe that the dodo’s ancestors arrived on the island, eventually turning into countries and losing their ability to fly. The first published record of the bird dates back to 1599, a year after the Dutch claimed Mauritius, turning the island into a port of call and then a settlement. Sometimes 17. the exact exact date of the second half of the century is unknown-the last dodo took his last breath.
At the time, the concept of extinction—the notion that an entire species could vanish with no possibility of return—had not yet been developed, nor had advanced taxidermy techniques, and few good dodo specimens survived. The scarcity of physical evidence, combined with unreliable descriptions and fanciful illustrations of the birds, allowed myths and misconceptions to take root.
“Even though the dodo is so well known in popular culture, scientifically actually it was much more of a wasteland,” says Leon Claessens, a paleontologist at College of the Holy Cross. A major Mauritian fossil deposit, discovered in 1865, has now yielded numerous individual bones, but there’s only one known skeleton comprised entirely of the bones of a single dodo. A Mauritian barber and amateur naturalist named Louis Etienne Thirioux found the skeleton in the early 20th century, but the specimen, currently housed by the Mauritius Institute in Port Louis, Mauritius, received little scientific scrutiny.
In 2011, Claessens and two of his students travelled to Mauritius to take a closed look at Thirioux’s find. They used a 3-D laser scanner to produce high-resolution images of each bone, later reassembling these images into a three-dimensional, digital model of the skeleton. (The team also scanned and modeled a second skeleton discovered by Thirioux, which is composed of the bones of at least two different dodos.)
Claessens and two other paleontologists—Hume and Hanneke Meijer, a paleontologist at the University Museum of Bergen in Norway—then studied the bones in detail, making a number of novel observations about the dodo’s anatomy and inferences about how it moved. (Their findings were published in a special issue of the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology in March.) The dodo, they observed, was a sturdy, robust bird, with thick leg bones and a broad pelvis. It also had sizable kneecaps, which scientists had never noted before and would have given the heavy, flightless bird knee joints that were “maneuverable, strong, and supportive,” Hume says. “This would be ideal for the dodo to move quickly in its rocky, densely forested home.”
Many previous studies have suggested that Dodos are not as overweight as they look at historical photographs, and that the new digital reconstruction reveals a bird with a steeper posture and a slimmer rib cage than is commonly depicted. In our article we mentioned in our previous article, These findings, coupled with The Shape of the bird and the positioning of its hip joints, suggest that the dodo can move quickly and efficiently to the ground. Indeed, he was probably quite agile. ” This clumsy, slow, meagre Bird has a reputation of very little service, almost like a basketball ball with some legs underneath, ” Claessens says. “While he will not be the Usain Bolt of the animal or the bird kingdom, he has a consistent anatomy with much greater agility.” Actually, it’s a 17. the century sailor reported that dodos were so fast that they could be difficult to catch.