The Dodo, also called Dronte, is an extinct species of bird. Dodos lived on the island of Mauritius, which lies east of Africa. They were related to pigeons. They are an early example of a known animal species that became extinct through the fault of humans.
Arab and Portuguese sailors had been visiting the island for a long time. But it was only the Dutch who lived there permanently, since 1638. What we still know about the Dodo today comes mainly from the Dutch.
Since the dodos couldn’t fly, catching them was pretty easy. Today it is said that the dodo became extinct around 1690. For a long time, the bird species was forgotten. But in the 19th century, the dodo became popular again, in part because it had appeared in a children’s book.
What did the dodos look like?
Today it is not so easy to find out what the dodos looked like. Only a few bones remain and only a single beak. In the drawings from earlier, the animals often look different. Many artists had never seen a dodo themselves but only knew it from reports.
There is no consensus on how heavy the dodos got. It used to be assumed that they were very heavy, around 20 kilograms. This is due to drawings of captive dodos that had eaten their fill. Today it is thought that many dodos in nature were perhaps only half as heavy. They were probably not quite as clumsy and slow as they were often described.
A dodo grew about three feet tall. The dodo’s plumage was brown-grey or blue-grey. The wings were short, the beak long and curved. Dodos lived on fallen fruit and maybe also on nuts, seeds, and roots.
How and when exactly did the birds become extinct?
For a long time, it was believed that sailors caught large numbers of dodos. So they would have had meat for seafaring. However, this does not mean that the animal has become extinct. For example, there was a fortress, a fort of the Dutch. No dodo bones were found in the fort’s rubbish.
In fact, the Dutch brought many animals with them, such as dogs, monkeys, pigs, and goats. It is possible that the dodo became extinct because of these animals. These animals and rats probably ate small dodos and eggs. In addition, people cut down trees. As a result, the dodos lost part of their habitat.
The last dodos were seen in 1669, at least there is a report of it. After that, there were other reports of dodos, although they are not as reliable. It is believed that the last dodo died around 1690.
Why did the dodo become famous?
Alice in Wonderland was published in 1865. A dodo appears briefly in it. Writer Lewis Carroll actually had Dodgeson as his last name. He stuttered, so he took the word dodo as some sort of allusion to his own last name.
Dodos also appeared in other books and later in films. You can recognize them by their thick beak. Perhaps their popularity stems from the fact that they were considered good-natured and clumsy, which made them lovable.
Today you can see the dodo in the coat of arms of the Republic of Mauritius. The dodo is also the symbol of the Jersey Zoo because of its particular interest in animals that are threatened with extinction. In the Dutch language and also in Russian, “dodo” is a word for a stupid person.