Critter of the Week: The Dodo

CONSERVATION STATUS

 

SCIENTIFIC CLASSIFICATION

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Aves

Order: Columbiformes

Family: Columbidae

Subfamily: Raphinae

Genus: Raphus

Species: R. cucullatus

DODO BIRD RANGE

Mauritius island location.svg

 

The dodo is one of the most well-known extinct animals. The last seen dodo in the wild was in 1662 on the island of Mauritius, when it was hunted to extinction by sailors. These chunky flightless birds were able to reach over 3 feet in length and weigh between 20-40 pounds. Since only skeletons and some sketches have been found, scientists are not sure of the color of their feathers, however, they have been drawn as grey and brown.

 

 

Some of the dodo’s most recognizable features are its large 9-inch beak and tiny wings. Its wings are small to match its original environment. Before settlers came to their island, the dodo had no natural predators and all the food it needed was on the ground so there was no need to fly. However, the dodo does have powerful thick legs that allow it to run fast if it needed to travel farther distances.


A common misconception of the dodos is that they were unintelligent. This stems from the fact that the dodo had no natural predators. Once sailors came to the island of Mauritius, the dodos would simply walk up to them making the dodos easy targets for hunting. The fact that the dodos usually didn’t fight back or flee was construed as being daft.


Dodos were omnivores. They mainly ate fallen fruit, nuts, seeds, and roots. They could also use their large beaks to eat crabs and shellfish similar to crowned pigeons, which are related to dodos. Dodos are always depicted as heavier since they would gorge on food during the wet season, so when food was scarce in the dry season, they could live on their reserves.


Something that contributed to the dodos’ eventual extinction is that they only laid one egg a year. Without predators and since dodos are flightless, their nests were probably on the ground. An amazing fact is that no young dodo remains have been found so far suggesting that the chicks matured rapidly.