Why the Dodo Bird?

February 5, 2007 by  
Filed under Features

In the last 400 years, at least 75 bird species became extinct. Of all these tragic species, the dodo is the best known. How did the dodo gain so much popular attention, when it went extinct way back in the 1680’s? Well, when Europeans first landed on the island of Mauritius, in 1598, they encountered a strange bird. It was a gigantic, flightless pigeon with a huge bill and no apparent fear of predators. They named it after the Portuguese word “duodo“, meaning simpleton.

The dodo did not need the ability to fly, because Mauritius had no predators. Unfortunately, human settlers brought rats, cats, pigs and monkeys to the island. Dodos could not escape these new creatures, and were also hunted by man. Within 40 to 50 years of the island’s discovery, the dodo was no more.

The dodo was barely remembered for the next several centuries. But in the 1860’s, the dodo appeared in Lewis Carroll’s famous book “Alice in Wonderland.” Also at that time, scientists found well-preserved dodo bones. Both events sparked a flurry of popular and scientific interest in dodos.

Perhaps the dodo also gained fame from the swiftness of its extinction. In today’s world of environmental concerns, it stands as a symbol of how easily humans can negatively affect wildlife. Many bird species today are threatened with extinction- hopefully no more species will suffer the dodo’s sudden fate.

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