Secret life of the dodo has revealed

Julian Hume

Scientists are piecing together clues about the life of the dodo hundreds of years after the bird was pushed to the point of extinction.

Some scientific facts are known about the poor bird, which was last sighted in 1662.

A study of the bone specimens in the exhibition the chicks born in the month of August and grew rapidly to adult size.

The bird shed his feathers in March, revealing the soft grey feathers recorded in historical accounts by the sailors.

Delphine Angst of the University of Cape Town, South Africa, has been given access to some of the dodo bones that still exist in museums and private collections, including specimens that were recently donated to the museum, in France.

His team has analyzed the slices of bone from the 22 dodo under the microscope to find out more about the bird growth and breeding patterns.

“Before our study, we knew very little about these birds,” said Dr Anguish.

“Use of bone histology for the first time we were able to describe that this bird was actually breeding in a certain period of the year, the wetsuit immediately after.”

Agnès Anguish

Scientists can tell from the growth patterns in the bones that the chicks grew to adult size very quickly after the eggs hatching around August.

This would have given them a survival advantage when cyclones hit the island between November and March, leading to a lack of food.

However, the birds probably took several years to reach sexual maturity, perhaps because the adult birds without natural predators.

The bones of adult birds also show signs of mineral loss, which suggests that they have lost the old damaged feathers after the breeding season.

The ancient mariners gave conflicting accounts of the dodo, describing them as “black” or “curled plumes of a greyish colour”.

The research, published in Scientific Reports, backs up this historical evidence.

“The dodo was a beautiful brown-grey bird, and during the moult she had hair, black plumage,” explained Dr Anguish.

“What we have found using our scientific methods fit perfectly with what the sailors had written in the past.”Egg theft

The research may also shed light on the dodo’s extinction almost 350 years ago, less than 100 years after the man arrived on the island.

Hunting was not a factor in the dodo death, but the monkeys, deer, pigs, and rats published on the island from ships probably sealed their fate.

The dodo to lay eggs in the nest on the ground, in the sense that they were vulnerable to attack by wild mammals.

Getty Images

Dr. Angst said that the dodo is regarded as “a great icon of the animal-human-induced extinction”, even if the full facts are unknown.

“It is difficult to know what was the real impact of man if we do not know the ecology of this bird and the ecology of the Mauritius island at this time,” he explained.

“Behold, this is a step to understand the ecology of these birds, and the global ecosystem of Mauritius and say, ‘Ok, when the man arrived exactly what they did wrong and why these birds became extinct so quickly’.”

Julian Hume of the Natural History Museum of London, a co-researcher of the study, said that there are still many mysteries that surround the dodo.

“Our job is to show the seasons and what was actually influencing the growth of these birds because of the climate in Mauritius,” he said.

“The cyclone season, when the island is devastated with storms – all the fruits and all the leaves are blown off the trees – it’s quite a tough period for the wildlife, the reptiles and the birds on Mauritius.”

The dodo, which is connected with the pigeon, has evolved in Mauritius.

However, bone samples are rare, which makes it difficult to trace its evolutionary process.

Although many specimens of the dodo ended up in European museums, most were lost or destroyed in Victorian times.

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