2PrefaceDespite being the emblem of extinction, the evolutionary history of the Dodo is poorly understood. The extreme evolutionary changes it has undergone (e.g. gigantism, flightlessness) on the island of Mauritius have even concealed its closest relatives within the birds - and it has been linked with everything from parrots, pigeons, and shorebirds, to birds of prey.By means of this presentation, I will try to bring light on the dodo through.An Introduction of the BirdIts HistoryThe Diet of the Dodo and the Dodo TreeThe Extinction of the DodoSome Recent ResearchesThe Cultural Significance of the DodoA Summary
3IntroductionThe dodo bird inhabited the island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean, where it lived undisturbed for so long that it lost its need and ability to fly. It lived and nested on the ground and ate fruits that had fallen from trees.The dodo was a flightless bird endemic to the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius, it stood about a meter tall, weighing about 20 kilograms (44 lb), living on fruit and nesting on the Dodo is the most famous extinct species in the history of Planet Earth. The demise of the Dodo has been attributed to hungry Dutch sailors en route to the Spice Islands of Indonesia. They would take a dinner break on the tropical island and consume the defenceless Dodo, but it was clearly an acquired taste as the sailors named it 'valghvogel'- meaning disgusting bird. The island of Mauritius is only 10 million years old and until the arrival of European settlers, there were no island predators to threaten the easy-going existence of the Dodo, a bird that had evolved from the African fruit-eating pigeons of the genus
4HistoryThe Dodo was first encountered in the late 1500s or early 1600s and was probably extinct by the mid 1600s - as a result of human hunting, and especially the introduction of rats and pigs. The early accounts suggest that the animals did not recognise humans as a predator - and were easy to hunt.Some of the birds may have been eaten by the Dutch sailors who discovered them. However, the primary causes of their extinction were the destruction of the forest (which cut off the Dodo's food supply), and the animals that the sailors brought with them, including cats, rats, and pigs, which destroyed Dodo nests.
5The Dodo and Solitaire were so heavily modified for their island habitats (e.g. large, flightless) that it is very difficult to determine their evolutionary history by looking at their morphology (shape, e.g. bones). In fact early scientists had considered their closest relatives lay amongst parrots, birds of prey, shorebirds or pigeons - although by the 1800s the general view was that they were probably pigeons, or at least somewhat related to them. If they were pigeons, then the most likely explanation would be that they represented the descendants of migratory African pigeons that had lost their way and colonised the islands.The Dodo and Solitaire were different enough morphologically that it was thought that they represented independent colonisation events - from differing African pigeons. Interestingly, recent work by Andrew Kitchener of the Royal Museums of Scotland has showed that the Dodo was probably not as fast as generally depicted in the paintings of the time.
6Diet of the Dodo & The Dodo Tree The tambalacoque, also known as the "dodo tree", was hypothesized by Stanley Temple to have been eaten from by Dodos, and only by passing through the digestive tract of the dodo could the seeds germinate; he claimed that the tambalacocque was now nearly extinct due to the dodo's disappearance.The Dodo has become quiet rare in Mauritius with only 13 remaining and it had not germinated since the late 1600s. Since the average life span of the Dodo tree was about 300 years, the last members of the species were extremely old. They would soon die, and the species would be extinct.Was it just a coincidence that the tree had stopped reproducing 300 years ago and that the dodo had become extinct 300 years ago? No. It turns out that the dodo ate the fruit of this tree, and it was only by passing through the dodo's digestive system that the seeds became active and could grow.
7ExtinctionIn 1505, the Portuguese became the first humans to set foot on Mauritius. The island quickly became a stopover for ships engaged in the spice trade. Weighing up to 50 pounds, the dodo was a welcome source of fresh meat for the sailors. Large numbers of dodos were killed for food. the primary causes of their extinction were the destruction of the forest (which cut off the Dodo's food supply).Later, when the Dutch used the island as a penal colony, pigs and monkeys were brought to the island along with the convicts. Many of the ships that came to Mauritius also had uninvited rats aboard, some of which escaped onto the island. Before humans and other mammals arrived the dodo had little to fear from predators. The rats, pigs and monkeys made short work of vulnerable dodo eggs in the ground nests.
8The combination of human exploitation and introduced species significantly reduced dodo populations. Within 100 years of the arrival of humans on Mauritius, the once abundant dodo was a rare bird. The last one was killed in 1681.Although the tale of the dodo's demise is well documented, no complete specimens of the bird were preserved; there are only fragments and sketches. The dodo is just one of the bird species driven to extinction on Mauritius. Many others were lost in the 19th century when the dense Mauritian forests were converted into tea and sugar plantations. Of the 45 bird species originally found on Mauritius, only 21 have managed to survive.
9ResearchesIn October 2005, part of the Mare aux Songes, the most important site of dodo remains, was excavated by an international team of researchers. Many remains were found, including bones from birds of various stages of maturity, and several bones obviously belonging to the skeleton of one individual bird and preserved in natural position. These findings were made public in December 2005 in the Naturalis in Leiden.The remains of the last known stuffed dodo had been kept in Oxford's Ashmolean Museum, but in the mid-18th century, the specimen – save the pieces remaining now – had entirely decayed and was ordered to be discarded by the museum's curator or director in or around 1755.
10In June 2007, adventurers exploring a cave in Mauritius discovered the most complete and well-preserved dodo skeleton ever.1626 dodo image by Roelant Savery, drawn after a stuffed specimen – note that it has two left feet and that the bird is obese from captivity.According to artists' renditions, the Dodo had greyish plumage, a 23-centimeter (9-inch) bill with a hooked point, very small wings, stout yellow legs, and a tuft of curly feathers high on its rear end. Dodos were very large birds, weighing about 23 kg (50 pounds).In 1638, Frangois Cauche described a dodo's egg as being as large as a halfpenny roll or the egg of a white pelican (Pelecanus onocrotalus). From this, the scaling relationship suggests the dodo would have weighed about 13.7 kilograms.
11Cultural Significance The dodo is used by many environmental organizations that promote the protection of endangered species, such as the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust and the Jersey Zoological Park, founded by Gerald Durrell.The dodo's significance as one of the best-known extinct animals and its singular appearance has led to its use in literature and popular culture to symbolize a concept or object that will or has become out of date, as in the expression "dead as a dodo" or "gone the way of the dodo".The dodo rampant appears on the coat of arms of Mauritius. The Dodo also appears in the BBC series primeval.
12SummaryThe dodo was a flightless bird endemic to the Indian Ocean island of MauritiusThe name Dodo comes from the Portuguese word for simpleton.The dodo, which is now extinct, lived on fruit and nested on the ground.The Dodo bird may have survived for 30 years longer than was earlier thought. The last confirmed sighting was in 1662, but it is now believed that the last Dodo died in 1690.In June 2007, adventurers exploring a cave in Mauritius discovered the most complete and well-preserved dodo skeleton ever.The dodo is used by many environmental organizations that promote the protection of endangered species. The dodo rampant appears on the coat of arms of Mauritius.