Dodo

The dodo is a flightless bird that was unique to the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius, east of Madagascar which had become extinct. The dodo’s closest genetic relative was the also extinct Rodrigues solitaire, with the two composing the Raphinae subfamily of the pigeon and dove family. The Nicobar pigeon is the dodo’s closest surviving relative. The close-by island of Reunion was formerly considered to contain a white dodo, but this is now understood to be a result of misunderstanding caused by the also-extinct Réunion ibis and paintings of white dodos.

Early biologists classified the dodo as a miniature ostrich, a rail, an albatross, or a vulture. Based on investigations of a dodo skull found in the collection of the Natural History Museum of Denmark, Danish biologist Johannes Theodor Reinhardt hypothesized that dodos were ground pigeons in 1842.

In many ways, Strickland and Melville who were English naturalists, demonstrated that the dodo was physically similar to pigeons. They pointed to the beak’s very short keratinous component, which had a long, thin, bare basal section. Other pigeons, like dodos, have exposed skin around their eyes that almost reaches their beak. The nostril was positioned low on the center of the beak and enclosed by skin, a combination of traits shared only with pigeons. The dodo’s legs were more comparable to those of terrestrial pigeons than to those of other birds, both in scales and skeletal traits. 

Subfossil bones indicate that the dodo stood around 1 metre (3 ft 3 in) tall and weighed 10.6–17.5 kg in the wild. Only sketches, paintings, and written descriptions from the 17th century attest to the dodo’s existence. Although they differ greatly, and only a few of the pictures are believed to have been created from live individuals, its precise look in life is unknown, and little is known about its behavior. Though the dodo was once regarded to be obese and clumsy, it is now deemed to be well-adapted to its environment. It features brownish-grey plumage, yellow feet, a tail feather tuft, a grey, bare head, and a black, yellow, and green beak. It was considered to have utilized gizzard stones to assist digest its diet, which included fruits, and its preferred home was the woodlands on the drier coastal sections of Mauritius. According to one report, the clutch consisted of a single egg. It is thought that the dodo became flightless due to the abundance of food and the lack of predators in Mauritius.

The Dutch “Walghvoghel,” originally recorded in the logbook of Dutch Vice Admiral Wybrand van Warwijck, who visited Mauritius during the Second Dutch Expedition to Indonesia in 1598, was one of the initial names for the dodo. Walghe is a word that meaning “tasteless,” “insipid,” or “sickly,” and voghel is a word that meaning “bird.” Jakob Friedlib translated the name into German as Walchstök or Walchvögel. The original Dutch report, Waarachtige Beschryving, was lost, but the English translation was preserved. The origins of the term “dodo” are unknown. Some attribute it to the Dutch term dodoor, which means “sluggard,” but it is most likely linked to Dodaars, which means “fat-arse” or “knot-arse,” alluding to the knot of feathers on the tail. 

The first recorded mention of the dodo was by Dutch sailors in 1598. In the following years, the bird was hunted by sailors and invasive species, while its habitat was being destroyed. The last widely accepted sighting of a dodo was in 1662. 

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