The Dodo bird has always been considered a funny animal mainly because of the stories revolving around its plump body and flightless nature.
From an evolutionary perspective, the stories highlight how the dodo bird was practically meant to be extinct.
Dodo Bird Origins
By the end of the 16th Century, the odd bird had become nothing more than food for settlers and hungry sailors of that time. A century later, this species ceased to exist.
Some can say that ecological studies have highlighted how the dodo bird history might be more controversial than you think.
Even though the dodo bird has always been considered slow of mind, this may not have been the case.
Paleontologists and museum curators opine how the dodo bird was perfectly capable of adapting to its environment.
One can trace back the origins of the dodo bird to the pigeon family. Its first home was a small volcanic island, also known as modern-day Mauritius, formed on the Indian Ocean.
As time passed by, the dodo bird evolved into a larger body shape that restricted them from flying. By the end of the 17th Century, the dodo bird was no longer thriving.
What Did The Dodo Bird Look Like?
The dodo bird was large in size and could go up to three feet tall. Its body was covered with grey feathers which ended in a white tail.
The Dodo bird’s sternum and wings were small in size. However, the muscles had enough strength to make up for the size.
This large bird could weigh up to 44 pounds (20 kilograms), which is heavier than most bird species today.
Other than this, it had a very distinctive beak (yellow or green color) with a curved top giving it the capacity to defend itself with a painful bite.
Dodo Bird Anatomical Configurations
The dodo bird was a strong, robust bird and with a broad pelvis and thick legs.
The kneecaps found on its body were larger than other bird’s joints.
Thick Sizeable Kneecaps
Other heavy birds without the ability to fly do not have kneecaps as big as those found on a dodo bird.
They were strong, supportive, and maneuverable, which allowed the dodo bird to quickly move about from one place to another, carrying its heavy body.
A dodo bird’s natural habitat was a thick forest for the most part of their existence.
The strong kneecaps were a way to help the dodo bird carry its heavy load through the dense forest’s vegetation.
Unlike the historical illustrations, the dodo bird was not fat or bulky.
The modern-day digital reconstructions highlight how the bird had a slimmer rib cage and an upright posture.
Combined with a broad pelvic shape and the positioning of the hip joint, it is pretty clear how the dodo bird could move quickly and swiftly.
The dodo bird’s bone structures and joints clearly indicate that it was quite agile.
Historic illustrations highlight how the dodo bird was inadequate, clumsy, and had a lumbering nature.
In contrast, the anatomy points towards another direction.
The way its body is built in terms of legs and knew joints, it is evident that dodo birds were so fast that they would be hard to catch.
Wing Ridges & Bumps
Even though dodo birds were flightless, their wings had ridges, bumps, and depressions along the lines where the muscle attachments would have been had they been alive today.
This indicates that the dodo bird was given wings for a reason.
The bumps and ridges explicitly highlight how wings on a dodo bird may not have been used for flying – but were definitely in another active use.
Even though we do not have dodo birds today to confirm these theories, one possibility is that the dodo bird used its wings to move quickly and achieve balance.
The depressions along the muscle attachments highlight how they were able to flutter their wings and stretch them out to improve balance while moving quickly from one place to another.
It only makes sense that a bird would need some capacity of balance while shooting about in rocky and dense areas.
Enhanced Sense of Smell
A dodo bird’s brain analysis and CT scans shed light on the fact that it had enlarged olfactory bulbs.
This is an unusual trait for most birds. However, the solitaire is another bird similar to the dodo species, which also carries similar large olfactory bulbs.
These findings highlight how both of these birds (both similar to the pigeon family) may have an enhanced sense of smell as indicated by a large olfactory bulb.
This adaptation could have possibly helped them sniff fresh and ripe fruit among the vast, thick forest vegetation.
Proportionate Brain Size
The dodo bird had an average brain size which was proportionate to its total body mass. This is a similar trait found in modern pigeons, which are highly trainable birds.
They also have a talent for navigation and visual discrimination, which speaks about a dodo bird’s capabilities.
Based on historical legends and illustrations, it wouldn’t be fair to term the dodo bird as a dumb species.
The completely proportionate brain size indicates how the dodo bird might not have been completely dumb after all.
Even though brain size is not a prerequisite to study intelligence, the size factor is definitely something to consider.
This is especially true because of the apparent extinction of the species at hand.
Besides, underestimating a dodo bird won’t be the first time scientists have underestimated a species.
Dated Neanderthals were also considered to be dumb brutes, but it took a little research to bring to light how they were also capable of carrying out sophisticated tasks such as making tools and painting on cave walls.
Dodo Birds & Survival
As time passes, it becomes clearer how the dodo bird had to go through a lot to survive as long as the species did.
After recreating its natural habitat, scientists highlight how their home was nothing short of a turbulent year-round zone with cyclones and an active volcano.
Mauritius, back then, was a tough place to live for wild animals. The cyclones would cause severe food shortages leading animals to starve for days.
These climatic shifts also brought about severe droughts, which only added to the food shortage problem, which eventually led to mass deaths of several animal species.
One can say that the dodo bird is a survivor. The species soldiered on despite cyclones, volcanic heat, climatic shifts, and toxic swamp water.
Despite the harsh conditions, the dodo bird adapted to the environmental changes. Since they did not have to deal with predators, the dodo bird species grew bigger in size.
Its body had the capability to store fat in order to survive food shortages, droughts, and cyclones.
What Led The Dodo Bird Towards Extinction?
The exact cause of the dodo bird’s extinction is unclear mainly due to little evidence. Some say they were hunted to extinction, but then again, there aren’t any facts to prove that theory.
The Dutch settlers from 1710 were known to feed on livestock and fish found on the island mainly.
If the settlers had hunted the dodo bird to extinction, excavators and researchers would have been able to find at least a single dodo bird bone. However, that wasn’t the case.
Some old Dutch journals shed light on the situation, revealing how some settlers actually ate dodos, but on occasion.
It wasn’t fully possible for a small group of colonists to devour the entire species, especially due to the difficult terrain and thick forest vegetation.
However, just because there isn’t enough evidence to prove that humans ate the dodo bird to extinction doesn’t mean they didn’t have a role in it.
The settlers brought a number of other animal species with them such as pigs, monkeys, cats, and even rats.
The addition to the ecosystem could have upset the balance against the dodo birds, leading to their extinction.
Moreover, other animal species and humans themselves would hunt for fresh fruit in the thick forests. This could have possibly created competition between the species for food.
In a place with an existing food shortage, having to share fruits and other resources with human settlers and livestock could have definitely been an issue for the dodo bird’s survival.
So, yes, it may be safe to say that humans did play a role in the extinction of the dodo bird – one way or the other.
To sum up, an important thing to point out here, mainly to defend the species, is that dinosaurs (another extinct prodigy) lasted on the planet for about 160,000 years, while the dodo bird alone reigned for around 200,000.
Therefore, the lack of evolution in the species or the historical illustrations highlighted its shortcomings had nothing to do with its extinction.
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