Skip to comments.Scientists Find Cache of Dodo Bird Bones
Posted on 12/23/2005 5:46:51 PM PST by NormsRevenge
AMSTERDAM, Netherlands - Scientists said Friday they found a major cache of bones and likely complete skeletons of the long-extinct Dodo bird, which could help them learn more about the lost creature's physique and habits.
The find is significant because no complete skeleton of a single Dodo bird has ever been retrieved from a controlled archaeological site in Mauritius. The last known stuffed bird was destroyed in a 1755 fire at a museum in Oxford, England, leaving only partial skeletons and drawings of the bird to go on.
The bird was native to Mauritius when no humans lived there but its numbers rapidly dwindled after the arrival of Portuguese and Dutch sailors in the 1500s. The last recorded sighting of a live bird was in 1663.
The international team of researchers found the bones on a sugar cane plantation on Mauritius, located in the Indian Ocean off the east coast of Madagascar.
They presented their findings at the National Museum of Natural History in the Dutch city of Leiden Friday.
"We have found 700 bones including bones from 20 Dodo birds and chicks but we believe there are many more at the site," said Kenneth Rijsdijk, a Dutch geologist from the Netherlands Organization for Applied Scientific Research, who led the dig.
DNA material from other Dodos exists, but Rijsdijk said more and better samples could be retrieved from the latest find, estimated to be 2,000 to 3,000-years-old.
Retrieving DNA means that the Dodo can be better placed in relation to other species. But recreating a live animal from its DNA remains in the realm of science fiction, Rijsdijk said.
The Dodo's name comes from a Portuguese word for "fool," so named because the bird showed no fear of humans and couldn't fly, making it easy prey for the colonists. The Dutch called it the Walgvogel, or "nasty bird" because it tasted so bad.
Modern scientists understand the Dodo more favorably. They believe the bird didn't fear humans because it had no natural predators on Mauritius and had lost the ability to fly because it was so large: adults grew to around a meter (yard) high and weighed around 20 kilograms, or about 50 pounds, considerably bigger than a pelican.
The Dodo was made famous by a political satire in the book Alice in Wonderland, in which a Dodo leads a "caucus race" in which the rules are hazy, contestants run in circles, and everybody wins a prize.
The Dodo soon became the best-known example of an extinct animal, giving rise to the expression "dead as a dodo."
But it was just one of many animals driven to extinction, including half the native bird species of Mauritius.
The find also included remains of extinct birds, giant tortoises, trees and plants.
On the Net:
A selection of discovered Dodo bones are seen on this photo provided by the Naturalis Museum in Leiden, the Netherlands, Friday, Dec, 23, 2005. Last October 28, a Dutch-Mauritian research team discovered Dodo remains on the southeastern part of Mauritius, the material's age is estimated at 2000 to 3000 years. (AP Photo/ Naturalis Museum)
Let's clone 'em.
Now, Class, How many such caucuses can we name?
And which political ideology would use it the best?
Please confine your answers to three letters. You may begin.
I guess they are still looking for the Dutch oven.
Rare Dodo bones unearthed
23/12/2005 21:49 - (SA)
Port Louis - A Dutch-Mauritian research team has discovered remains of the extinct Dodo bird, dating back 2 000 to 3 000 years, in Mauritius.
Researches say the find will allow for the first scientific research into, and reconstruction of the world in which, the Dodo lived before settlers landed on the island and wiped out the species.
The fossil was excavated in "Mare aux Songes", a low-lying swamp area in the dry south-eastern part of the island.
So far, 27 square metres have been excavated and more than 700 bones recovered.
According to researches, all the bones have been found in one layer, suggesting a mass grave.
Also unearthed at the site are the remains of Dodo chicks and a very rare part of the bird's beak, only a few of which are known to exist.
Fossilised giant tortoise found
In addition to the Dodo remains, the find included bones of various other extinct bird species, indigenous giant tortoise species, and a baby giant tortoise, as well as a large number of seeds and remains of (partly) extinct trees and plants.
Further studies of the Mare aux Songes site's geology and ecology are expected to reconstruct the area's landscape, wildlife, and vegetation, determining if the animals may have perished en masse due to a natural disaster.
In addition, the studies will enable scientists to research how such a massive collection of bones, seeds, and wood ended up in the swamp and how it has remained so well preserved.
The studies will be carried out by local botanical specialists from Mauritius in close co-operation with leading European institutes from the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.
The Dodo was a flightless member of the pigeon family native only to the island of Mauritius.
The Portuguese, arriving on the island in 1505, shot the Dodo for fresh meat eventually wiping out the species in 1681.
It was the first known animal species to be wiped out by the actions of man and not the evolution of nature.
Of the 45 bird species originally found on the island, only 21 still survive.
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Let's clone 'em.
Give turkeys a break for the holidays -- Eat More Dodo!
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