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  • Sophie Koenig

The dodo bird

The dodo bird disappeared so quickly off the face of Earth 300 years ago that it has become the most famous example for extinction. There are important lessons which one can take from this, such as learning to take care of endangered animals that are just barely avoiding extinction today and learning about the fragility of island ecosystems and how easily they can break.

This is the story of the dodo: Sometime during the last ice age, a hopelessly lost flock of pigeons landed on the Island of Mauritius, in the Indian Ocean. The pigeons prospered in this unique environment, evolving over hundreds of thousands of years into the flightless, one meter tall, 23-kilogram dodo bird, which was first glimpsed by humans when Dutch settlers landed in Mauritius at about 1598. Less than 65 years later, the dodo was fully extinct; the last confirmed sighting of this ill-fated bird was in 1662.

Until the modern era, the dodo had led a life with no worries: There were no predatory mammals, reptiles, or even large insects on the island, so they had no need to evolve to any natural defences. In fact, dodo birds were so trusting that they would have waddled up to armed Dutch settlers, as they would have been unaware that these strange creatures intended to kill and eat then. The dodo also made irresistible meals for the cats, dogs, and monkeys that the settlers imported. The dodo lacked the ability to fly, as it takes a lot of energy to maintain powered flight, which is why nature favors this adaptation only when it is necessary. After the dodos’ pigeon ancestors landed on this island paradise, they slowly lost their ability to fly, whilst at the same time evolving into sizes that are turkey-like. That birds start to lose or have already lost the ability to fly is a reoccurring incidence in bird evolution and has been seen in penguins, ostriches, and chickens.

This odd bird only laid one egg at a time (as mentioned before it had no predators, so one egg had a far higher survival rate), and a species only laid the number of eggs needed to multiply the breed. Most other birds lay multiple eggs to increase the chances of at least one egg hatching, escaping predators or natural disaster, and surviving. This one-egg-per-dodo-bird policy had disastrous consequences when the macaques owned by Dutch settlers learned how to raid dodo nests, and the cats, rats, and pigs that had gotten loose from ships went and preyed on the chicks.

This is the tragic tale of the dodo bird and how it had gone extinct. We can only hope that we learn from our mistakes of hunting this creature to extinction, as we have done to so many, and protect our endangered animals of today. We will end up regretting it if we don’t.

Info from ThoughtCo.

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