The Extinct Dodo Bird
The Dodo bird was discovered on the island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean in 1507 by Portuguese explorers. By 1681, the Dodo was declared extinct. Portuguese sailors were the ones who named this friendly bird that had been isolated on the island for years. The sailors named it the Dodo, after the word "dou dou" meaning "simpleton" because of its child-like demeanor and lack of fear. The Dodos had gotten so used to living predator-less lives that they weren't afraid of humans or any other living things. The Dodo gained a reputation of being stupid, although it likely was not. Unfortunately, the Dodo bird became endangered and extinct because of humans. Not only were people killing the birds for food, when the Portuguese used the island as a penal colony, they also introduced dogs and pigs to the ecosystem. These "alien" animals killed off the Dodo bird population by ransacking nests and eating the eggs and young.
A Mauritius Factoid: Of the 45 original bird species on the island, only 21 are left.
Scientists believe that the Dodo evolved into its flightless nature. Once able to fly, the Dodo bird gave up flight for the ability to store a lot of fat during times of scarcity. When fruit was not abundant, the Dodo had to figure out ways to store food as fat in its body for later use. Since there were no predators on the island, prior to the arrival of humans, the Dodo's evolution makes a lot of sense.
In fact, humans are responsible for the extinction of many flightless birds around the world...particularly those who live on islands that were once untouched by man. The Dodo is often used as the classic example of extinction caused by humans.
Dodo Reproductive Habits
According to early records, Dodo birds had monogamous relationships, mating with only one bird for life. Dodo birds bred all year long. The females laid one egg at a time, which hatched 49 days after appearing in the nest, usually in tall grasses. Both parents took turns taking care of the eggs and young.
Mating Ritual: Dodo birds clapped their wings together to attract each other.
- The Dodo bird is related to pigeons and doves.
- The Dodo bird's average height: 3.3 feet or 1 meter tall.
- The Dodo bird's average weight: 44 lbs or 20 kgs.
- The Dodo bird's diet: fruit.
- Dodo birds nested on the ground ~ they are flightless.
- The Dodo bird had greyish, blueish plumage.
- The Dodo bird had a 9-inch bill ~ 23 cm.
- Dodo birds don't have tongues.
The Dodo Myths
Many people believe the Dodo bird to be a fat, sloppy, clumsy bird that was not very intelligent. In fact, scientists have recently revealed that through examination of their bones and early drawings, the Dodo was actually a rather thin, fast bird. It was actually built much like passenger pigeons, which have also become extinct.
Some people also claimed that the Dodo became extinct strictly because people were hunting and eating them. Others have documented that Dodo meat tasted horrible and they really were not killed for consumption purposes. The facts on this one will never be set straight as eating an extinct bird is impossible.
The Domino's Effect
Due to the extinction of the Dodo bird, the Calvaria tree also became extinct. The tree depended on the Dodo bird to spread its seeds. The Dodo would eat the fruit from the tree, but couldn't digest it. As a result, when the Dodo pooped, it would spread the Cavlaria tree seeds. The seeds wouldn't germinate unless it went through the Dodo's digestive system. This is known as animal-plant mutualism. Without the Dodo to eat the Calvaria fruit, the tree eventually faced extinction as well.