The Strange Case of the Dodo Bird
Scientists Change Their View of the Poster Child of Extinct Species
by Rosalinda Villegas, age 13
The dodo bird went extinct about 350 years ago. And for many years after that, people knew very little about this strange looking bird. By the 19th century, the descriptions of this bird were so unbelievable that its very existence was considered a myth.
However, when Lewis Carroll’s popular book, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, featured the dodo bird as one of its characters, the dodo became a well-known example of extinction.
Dodos were big birds, weighing about 50 pounds. They had grayish feathers, a 23-centimeter bill with a hooked point, small wings and bulky yellow legs. Traditionally seen as clumsy, fat birds, that view of the dodo has recently been challenged by a number of scientists. It now appears dodos were closely related to the Nicobar pigeon, as well as doves and other pigeons.
In October 2005, an international team of researchers excavated an important site of dodo remains on the island of Mauritius. Mauritius is located in the Indian Ocean, southeast of Madagascar. The findings were made public in December of the same year in The Naturalis in Leiden. In June 2007, adventurers exploring another cave in Mauritius discovered the most complete and well-preserved dodo skeleton ever.
When humans arrived on the island of Mauritius, they destroyed the forests where these birds made their homes. At the same time, settlers brought in non-native animals that preyed on the dodo. As a result, the birds have been extinct since the mid-to-late 17th century.
Scientists hypothesize that the last dodo bird died just about a century after the species was discovered by humans in 1581. The last sighting of the dodo bird was in 1662.
[Sources: Daily Telegraph; Wikipedia; National Geographic]