Raphus cucullatus (Dodo)

Gelderland Dodo (1601-1603)
Dodo drawings from the log of the Dutch ship 'Gelderland' by Joris Joostensz Laerle (attributed) (1601-1603). Public Domain
Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Aves Columbiformes Columbidae
Scientific Name: Raphus cucullatus (Linnaeus, 1758)
Common Names: Dodo
Status: Extinct
Range: Mauritius
Description: The dodo was a large flightless pigeon of approximately  70-75 cm (28-29 in) (Hume & Walters 2012). There is much confusion about its external morphology. The differences in the descriptions may be the result of sexual dimorphism, individual variation, aging or errors based on assumptions based on inadequate evidence (Hume & Walters 2012; Parish 2013). It appears to have been variable in colour: light or dark grey, brownish, yellowish-brown, black or white (Hume & Walters 2012). The bare parts of its face were ash-coloured or bluish with a light ash, blackish, green or yellow bill (Fuller 2000; Hume & Walters 2012; Parish 2013). The iris was white, the legs yellowish or blackish with black claws (Fuller 2000; Hume & Walters 2012; Parish 2013). The small wings were reported to consist of three to eight large feathers with a black, yellow to whitish, pale grey or pale brown colour (Parish 2013). The tail consisted of two to five curled whitish, greyish, yellowish grey or yellowish brown feathers (Fuller 2000; Parish 2013).
Extinction: Arab traders probably discovered the island of Mauritius in the 13th century followed by the Portuguese in 1516 and the Dutch VOC (Dutch East India Company) claimed the island for the Netherlands in 1598 (Hume & Walters 2000). As far as is known there had been no permanent settlement until the Dutch established a fort in south-east Mauritius in 1638 and maintained an almost continuous settlement until 1710 (Hume & Walters 2000). The first account about the dodo in literature was published in 1599 by Jacob Corneliszoon van Neck, a Dutch naval officer and explorer (Hume & Walters 2000). The dodo was last reported from an offshore islet by Volkert Evertsz (or Vilkert Evertszen) after the loss of the ship Arnhem in 1662 (Cheke 1987; BirdLife International 2016; Hume & Walters 2000). There was a report by an escaped slave in 1674 and statistical techniques indicate that it is likely to have persisted until 1690 (BirdLife International 2016; Roberts and Solow 2004). Cowles (1987) mentions an extinction date of 1693. Considering the size of the remaining forests and the estimated longevity of the dodo, Parish (2013) suggest an extinction date of c. 1700. Its extinction is caused by sailors and settlers who hunted the dodo for food and by the introduction of invasive species like black rats (Rattus rattus), pigs (Sus scrofa), goats (Capra aegagrus hircus) and macaques (Macaca fascicularis) (BirdLife International 2016; Hume & Walters 2000; Parish 2013). These introduced invasive species which would have been direct threats to the dodo’s eggs and chicks, and competitors for limited food resources (Hume & Walters 2000; Parish 2013).
Specimens: A preserved stuffed head and foot of the dodo can be found in the Oxford University Museum of Natural History (Cheke & Hume 2008; Hume & Walters 2000). A mummified head (skin now perished) can be found in Copenhagen (Hume & Walters 2000). Subfossil remains are kept in museum collections in Berlin, Brighton (UK), Cambridge (UK), Cambridge (Massachusetts, USA), Copenhagen, Durban, Frankfurt, Leeds, Leiden, Liverpool, London, Mauritius, New York, Oxford, Paris, Qatar, Réunion, Stuttgart, Tokyo, Tring, Vienna, Washington D.S. and York (Hume & Walters 2000).
References: BirdLife International. (2016). Raphus cucullatus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T22690059A93259513. http://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2016-3.RLTS.T22690059A93259513.en. Downloaded on 12 March 2017.

Cheke, A.S. (1987). An ecological history of the Mascarene Islands, with particular reference to extinctions and introductions of land vertebrates. In: Diamond, A.W. (ed.), Studies of Mascarene island birds, pp. 5-89. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, U.K.

Cheke, A, and Hume, J, (2008). Lost Land of the Dodo: An ecological history of Mauritius, Réunion and Rodrigues. T & A D Poyser, London.

Cowles, G.S. (1987). The Fossil record. In A.W. Diamond (ed.), Studies of Mascarene Island Birds, 90-100. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

del Hoyo, J., Collar, N.J., Christie, D.A., Elliott, A. and Fishpool, L.D.C. (2014). HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World. Lynx Edicions BirdLife International, Barcelona, Spain and Cambridge, UK.

Fuller, E. (2000). Extinct birds. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Hume J.P. & Walters M. (2012). Extinct birds. London: T & AD Poyser, 544 pp. ISBN 978-1-4081-5725-1.

Parish, J. C. (2013). The Dodo and the Solitaire: a Natural History. Indiana University Press, Bloomington, Indiana, USA.

Roberts, D. L.; Solow, A. R. (2003). When did the dodo become extinct? Nature 426(6464): 245.

Citation: Maas, P.H.J. (2017). Raphus cucullatus (Dodo). In: TSEW (2017). The Sixth Extinction. http://petermaas.nl/extinct.
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