Dodo - Raphus cucullatus GEL 103 Final Presentation Professor Mark Lawler Presentation by Melissa Dyer
Table of Contents Dodo genus Characteristics Range and Habitat History Ancestral Connections Extinction Prehistoric Extinction Cloning Resources
Dodo Bird--Raphus cucullatus Kingdom Animalia (animals) Phylum Chordata (chordates) Class Aves (birds) Order Columbiformes (pigeons) Family Raphidae (dodos and solitaires) Genus Raphus Species Raphus cucullatus Authority (Linnaeus, 1758)
Dodo Bird Characteristics The name Dodo is believed to have derived from the Dutch word “dodoor” meaning “sluggard” which represents its looks and appearance. The length of the dodo was about 100cm (3ft, 3in) and weighed up to 20 kg. It had large legs, short little wings, a short neck and a 23cm long enormous thick, bowed beak. At the end of its thickset figure the dodo had a tussle feathers. The plumage of the dodo was greyish with darker upperparts and lighter on throat and abdomen. The tail feathers were whitish. The thighs were blackish. The bare part of the face was probably ash-coloured, while the feet and legs were yellow. The iris was probably whitish, and its beak green or black, perhaps with some yellow. (Fuller, 2000)
Range and Habitat Dodo birds were once the inhabitants of Mauritius, a small, island which lies approximately 500 miles east of Madagascar. Although Mauritius has many different regions, the dodo mainly resided in the forests. This is a map of Mauritius, the only place to have had Dodo Birds.
History Studies indicate that the proto-dodo/solitaire and the ancestor of the genus Caloenas, the closest relative of the Dodo, diverged in the mid to late Eocene, around 43 Ma, whereas the dodo and the solitaire separated in the late Oligocene, about 26 Ma. The latter date is biogeographically interesting as it is considerably older than the islands of Mauritius and Rodriguez. Geological evidence suggests that Mauritius emerged in a series of volcanic events, the earliest of which occurred around 7 Ma, whereas Rodriguez did not emerge until 1.5 Ma. Therefore, it seems highly unlikely that the large genetic distance between the dodo and the solitaire resulted from isolation on the two islands. (Roberts & Solow, 2003) Drilling projects have established that ridges surrounding the Mascarene Plateau were above sea level in the late Oligocene and have subsided slowly thereafter. The similarity between the timing of the dodo/solitaire divergence and the first geological evidence of land in the Mascarene island chain is striking and suggests that island steppingstones may have been used before the two species eventually found their way to Mauritius and Rodriguez. The solitaire and dodo reached their new homes by air, later evolving flightlessness independently. (Roberts & Solow, 2003)
Ancestral Connections The nearest relative of the dodo, which lived also on the Mascarenes, is the Rodrigues Solitaire (Pezophaps solitaria) which lived on the island Rodriguez. Researchers at the University of Oxford, UK, have taken samples from a preserved specimen in an attempt to uncover the extinct bird's family tree in 2002. The Oxford team worked with the Natural History Museum to collect and analize genetic material from a preserved dodo, from the similarly extinct Rodriguez solitaire, and from another 35 kinds of living pigeon and dove. Their analysis confirmed that the Dodo and the Rodrigues Solitaire were, as expected, each others closest relative. (Shapiro et al., 2002) Among living pigeons, the dodos are most close to the Nicobar Pigeon (Caloenas nicobarica), a beautiful pigeon from South East Asia. Almost as closely related are the crowned pigeons (Goura sp.) of New Guinea. The unusual Samoan tooth-billed pigeon (Didunculus strigirostris), originally named for its dodo-like beak, is the basal member of this strongly supported group of large, generally ground-dwelling, island endemics. Furthermore, the phylogeographic distribution of this morphologically diverse group suggests that the dodo and the Rodriguez solitaire dispersed from Southeast Asia to the Mascarenes at some point in the past. (Shapiro et al., 2002)
Extinction The dodo was easy prey due to the fact that they had no natural enemies until humans arrived on Mauritius. The main purpose of the dodos, during their brief yet devastating interactions with humans, was food. Although the sailors felt that dodo meat wasn’t very tasty, they still ate them and killed them by the thousands. Also, the sailors brought other animals with them such as pigs, dogs, cats, and rats that killed the birds, their young, and trampled their nests. The extinction of the dodo bird is one of the most infamous extinctions in history. It was a lesson in human history and the cause and effects that we have on our environment. Unfortunately, the extinction of the dodo did not spark conservation efforts to protect other animals from over-hunting or ecological effects caused by humans, until hundreds of years later. However, even to this day, the dodo is still the ambassador of extinction.
The Holocene extinction event includes the notable disappearance of large mammals, known as megafauna, by the end of the last ice age 9,000 to 13,000 years ago. Such disappearances have been considered as either a response to climate change, a result of the proliferation of modern humans, or both. These extinctions, occurring near the Pleistocene / Holocene boundary, are sometimes referred to as the Pleistocene extinction event or Ice Age extinction event. However the Holocene extinction event continues through the events of the past several millennia and includes the present time. (S.L. Pimm, et al. 1995)
The observed rate of extinction has accelerated dramatically in the last 50 years. There is no general agreement on whether to consider more recent extinctions as a distinct event or merely part of a single escalating process. Only during these most recent parts of the extinction have plans also suffered large losses. Overall, the Holocene extinction event is most significantly characterized by the presence of man-made driving factors and its very short geological timescale (tens to thousands of years) compared to most other extinction events. (S.L. Pimm, et al. 1995)
Cloning Scientists have extracted DNA from a dodo, raising the prospect that the animal whose name is synonymous with extinction could be resurrected. British experts have recovered fragments of genetic material from a preserved head and foot kept in Oxford University's Museum of Natural History. The research has already identified the closest living relative and may pave the way to the recreation of the species. However, the genetic material has deteriorated into millions of fragments. Once scientists have worked out the key genes that made the dodo unique, they could then create genetically engineered DNA to put into the nucleus of an egg and hatch a dodo-like bird using one of the pigeons identified by Cooper's survey. It would, however, be almost impossible to recreate a perfect dodo, because its genetic code, which survives only in tiny fragments, could most likely never be worked out to a sufficiently high degree of accuracy. (Farrar 1999; Shapiro et al. 2002)
Resources Fuller, E. (2000). Extinct birds. Oxford University Press, Oxford. Roberts, D.L., Solow, A.R. 2003. Flightless birds: When did the dodo become extinct? Nature 426, 245-245. Brief Communications. Shapiro, B., Sibthorpe, D., Rambaut, A., Austin, J., Wragg, GM., Bininda-Emonds, O.R.P., Lee, P.L.M., Cooper, A. (2002). Flight of the Dodo. Science 295, 1683. (S.L. Pimm, G.J. Russell, J.L. Gittleman and T.M. Brooks, The Future of Biodiversity, Science 269: 347-350 (1995) Farrar, F. (1999). DNA Science could rebuild dead dodo. The Sunday Times (21 March 1999).