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Climate Change and Island Species: How the Dodo Birds Went Extinct

Sep 07, 2015 08:20 PM EDT

The first recorded image of the extinct dodo bird appears in a rare, first-edition book published in 1601, about the second Dutch expedition of 1598 to Indonesia, say analysts at the Lyon and Turnbull auction house in Edinburgh, who recently auctioned off the book. 

According to a release from the auction house, during their exploration, the Dutch voyagers took note of their surroundings, including the dodos (Raphus cucullatus). The Dutch called these birds Walckvogel, which means disgusting bird. This is presumably the first print description and engraved image of the dodo.

The dodo bird was a large flightless bird that once lived on the Mascarene Islands (later re-named Mauritius) of the Indian Ocean. However, the discovery of the three islands in the 1500s, and their colonization in the 1600s, caused dramatic ecological changes that eventually led to the dodo birds' extinction. In fact, the last confirmed sighting of a dodo was in 1681 and by the end of the 17th century there were none left.

(Photo : Wikimedia Commons )
A drawing of the large, flightless dodo bird.

According to a study published in The Holocene, the dodo wasn't as much of a dummy as it might have seemed: Its large size and inability to fly were adaptations that contributed to its survival among the island's adverse conditions and climate change events, including extreme drought and volcanic eruptions.

The limited ecosystems found on these islands are interesting to scientists studying species' evolution and the effects of climate change. Anthony Cheke, the author of Lost Land of the Dodois an expert in the chronology and interactions of introduced animals and plants with the extinction process of native species. He led a British Ornithological Union expedition to the Mascarene Islands in 1973.

The researchers found a thick bed of fossil bones in a former freshwater lakebed on Mauritius. Among the thousands of dodo bird fossils, they also found those of many giant tortoises, small reptiles and flying birds.

For more great nature science stories and general news, please visit our sister site, Headlines and Global News (HNGN). 

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