The Dodo

Raphus cucullatus

The Dodo

Species type: Bird
Species (Common name): Dodo
Scientific name: Raphus cucullatus
Endemism: Endemic to Mauritius
Conservation status: Extinct

Description: The dodo was a large flightless bird of about 1 m in height and weighing an estimated 20 kg. Two very characteristic features were its small wings and large hooked beak. Despite its apparent familiarity nobody knows precisely what the dodo looked like as no complete specimens exist.

Fun facts:

  1. The dodo, at various times, has been described as a type of swan, an ostrich, an albatross and even a vulture but there is widespread agreement that the dodo was in fact a type of pigeon. A candidate for its nearest living relative, and possible ancestor, is the Nicobar pigeon a small now found on many islands in the East Indies and around New Guinea.
  2. The dodo is the icon of extinction and one of the most recognised species in the world despite the fact that there have been no recorded observations since 1662 only 64 years after the Dutch first landed in Mauritius. Its last cited location was on an islet off the east coast of Mauritius, possibly Ile d’Ambre. The last record from the Mauritian mainland was from 1640.
  3. Contrary to popular belief it is highly unlikely that the dodo became extinct because hungry Dutch colonists hunted it for its meat. The most probable reason for its extinction was introduced predators such as cats, rats and monkeys which ate dodo eggs and chicks. Adult dodos could probably defend themselves pretty well against these predators but of course all species are doomed if their young cannot survive to become adults.
  4. Googling the word “dodo “will get you more hits than well know (non-extinct) bird species such as the ostrich, albatross, cockatoo or pheasant though not as many as groups of bird species such as parrots, pigeons or eagles.
  5. Seeing a live dodo remains a (forlorn) hope for many people who visit the Mauritius from all over the world. The closest you can get to a sighting is the beautiful bronze dodo sculpture that can be seen on Ile aux Aigrettes.