ANIMALS The extinction of the dodo has raised alarm bells about how our actions on wildlife can lead to the destruction of certain species.
Dodos had wings but couldn't fly. — Daniel Eskridge/Shutterstock
It was, after the ostrich, the largest flightless bird. With its beak reminiscent of a vulture and its atrophied wings, the dodo (Raphus cucullatus) has been doomed by its own evolution. À in many ways, the dodo resembled; a pigeon; it would have had brown or grayish plumage, a bald head, sturdy legs and yellow feet with talons. But the study of its bones tells us that it was quite fast and used its hooked beak in territorial disputes with other birds. A 17th century account of this bird’s diet suggests that it ate fallen fruit, seeds and nuts, and ingested gastroliths (stones stomach) to aid digestion.
An isolated bird
The dodo was endemic exclusively to Mauritius, where it had evolved; from a species close to pigeons which arrived on the Mascarene Islands 26 million years ago. The abundance of food that littered the ground and the total absence of natural predators for a long time allowed him to have the good life.
He didn’t need to fly or move very fast, so evolution gradually gave him the opportunity to grow. small cropped the wings, while giving it an increasingly large size. So when the first Dutch navigators landed; in 1598, the dodos proved to be very easy prey; it was enough for the hunters to take care of it; their powerful beak. A single individual could feed half of the of a ship’s crew.
The ease with which they could be hunted as well as the introduction of the animals which the explorers brought in their holds – rats, pigs, dogs and cats – and who ate their offspring, their eggs and their food resulted in the extinction of the species in the end. barely nine decades. They disappeared soon after their discovery, so 19th-century naturalists were convinced that sailors had invented them. from scratch this huge bird that could not fly.
A last sighting in 1662
Some accounts relate that specimens were taken alive to London, but the last sighting of a dodo dates back to 1662. Volkert Evertsz, a sailor who sailed at aboard the Dutch ship Arnhem which was shipwrecked on the island of Amber, described the song of a group of birds and the ease of with which he had succeeded in catch one. However, another observation dating from 1681 competes with it.
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