what year were dodo birds extinct

The extinction of the dodo (Raphus cucullatus L.; Fig. 1) is commonly dated to the last confirmed sighting in 1662, reported by Volkert Evertsz on an islet off Mauritius1,2. By this time, the dodo had become extremely rare — the previous sighting having been 24 years earlier — but the species probably persisted unseen beyond this date. Here we use a statistical method to establish the actual extinction time of the dodo as 1690, almost 30 years after its most recent sighting.

Its last confirmed sighting was in 1662, although an escaped slave claimed to have seen the bird as recently as 1674. In fact, it is estimated by using a Weibull distribution method that the dodo may have persisted until 1690, almost 30 years after its presumed extinction date. Although gone forever, the dodos lumbering appearance in Lewis Carrolls Alices Adventures in Wonderland has ensured that it will not be forgotten.

Dodos transported abroad Painting of a possibly stuffed specimen in the collection of

Living dodo specimens were sent to Europe and the East because the species was deemed interesting enough. Uncertainty surrounds the number of transported dodos that made it to their destinations alive as well as how they compare to modern depictions and the sparse non-fossil remains in European museums. At least eleven transported dodos are thought to have arrived at their destinations alive, according to Julian Hume’s deductions based on a combination of contemporary accounts, paintings, and specimens.

The only record that cites a live specimen in Europe is Hamon LEstrange’s 1638 account of a dodo he saw in London. Adriaen van de Venne claimed to have drawn a dodo in Amsterdam in 1626, but he did not specify whether it was alive. The drawing bears resemblance to Savery Edwards’s Dodo. Between 1628 and 1634, Peter Mundy saw two live specimens in Surat, India; one of them might have been the one that Mansur painted around 1625. [22] Emmanuel Altham traveled to Mauritius in 1628 and corresponded with his brother back in England:

It’s unclear if the dodo made it through the voyage, and the letter was destroyed in a fire in the nineteenth century. The earliest image of a dodo specimen found in Europe dates back to a c collection of paintings from 1610 that show animals from Emperor Rudolph II’s royal menagerie in Prague There are also paintings of other Mauritius animals in this collection, such as a red rail. The dodo, which might be a juvenile, appears to have been dried or embalmed, and it was most likely housed with the other animals in the Emperor’s Zoo for a while. Given that whole stuffed dodos were found in Europe, it is likely that the visiting ships did not have taxidermists on board and that spirits had not yet been employed to preserve biological specimens. Most tropical specimens were preserved as dried heads and feet.

According to legend, one dodo was sent all the way to Nagasaki, Japan, in 1647, but it was never confirmed whether it made it there. Modern records that were first made public in 2014 validated the narrative and demonstrated that it had arrived alive. It was intended as a gift and, in spite of its scarcity, was valued on par with a bezoar stone and a white deer. It is the last recorded live dodo in captivity. [91].

Subfossil specimens

Up until 1860, the four incomplete specimens from the 17th century were the only known dodo remains. The first subfossil bones were discovered by Philip Burnard Ayres in 1860. They were sent to Richard Owen at the British Museum, but Owen chose not to publish the results. In 1863, Owen asked Vincent Ryan, the Mauritian bishop, to let people know that he should be notified if any dodo bones were discovered. [2] After a 30-year search motivated by Strickland and Melville’s monograph, George Clark, the government schoolmaster at Mahébourg, eventually discovered a large number of subfossil dodo bones in the swamp of Mare aux Songes in Southern Mauritius in 1865. [22] In 1866, Clark gave an explanation of his method to the ornithology journal The Ibis: he had his coolies wade through the middle of the swamp, using their feet to feel for bones. Before they removed the vegetation covering the swamp’s lowest point, they discovered a large number of fossils after finding few bones at first. [120] Harry Pasley Higginson, a Yorkshire-born railway engineer, claims to have found the Mare aux Songes bones concurrently with Clark, though there is some disagreement as to who actually found them first. Higginson shipped these bones in boxes to the museums in York, Leeds, and Liverpool. [121][122] The swamp produced the bones of more than 300 dodos, but only a small number of skull and wing bones; this could be because the lower body was trapped and the upper bodies were washed or scavenged. The circumstances are comparable to numerous moa remains discovered in marshes in New Zealand. [123] The majority of the dodo skeletons found in the Mare aux Songes are colored from medium to dark brown. [79].

Clarks reports about the finds rekindled interest in the bird. Sir Richard Owen and Alfred Newton became rivals after Owen purchased a shipment of dodo bones that were intended for Newton. Both men wanted to be the first to describe the post-cranial anatomy of the dodo. Owen wrote about the bones in Memoir on the Dodo in October 1866, but he incorrectly based his reconstruction on Savery’s painting of Edwards’ Dodo, which resulted in an excessively squat and obese creature. When he got additional bones in 1869, he adjusted its posture to make it more erect. Newton moved his focus to the Réunion solitaire instead. The remaining bones that weren’t purchased by Owen or Newton were given to museums or put up for auction. [2][124] Théodor Sauzier was hired in 1889 to investigate Mauritius’ “historical souvenirs” and locate additional dodo remains in the Mare aux Songes. In addition to finding the remains of other extinct species, he was successful. [125] Skeleton assembled from subfossils found in 2006,.

A portion of the Mare aux Songes swamp was excavated in 2005 by an international research team (International Dodo Research Project) following a century of neglect. During their occupation of Mauritius, the British had covered the swamp with hard core to prevent malaria; this had to be removed. Numerous bones from at least 17 dodos in different stages of maturity (but no juveniles) and several clearly from the skeleton of a single bird that have been preserved in their natural position were among the many remains that were discovered. [126] These results were presented to the public in December 2005 at the Leiden Naturalis museum. Approximately 2063% of the fossils discovered in the marsh belonged to turtles from the extinct genus Cylindraspis, and One percent belonged to dodos, which had been deposited some 4,000 years ago, within several centuries. [127] Later excavations revealed that during a protracted, intense drought approximately 4,200 years ago, dodos and other animals got entangled in the Mare aux Songes while attempting to reach water. [126] In addition, the excrement of animals that perished from thirst, dehydration, trampling, and miring around the swamp fostered the growth of cyanobacteria. [128] Despite the fact that numerous tiny skeletal fragments were discovered during the most recent swamp excavations, very few were discovered in the 19th century, most likely because less sophisticated techniques were used to collect [79].

Around 1900, amateur naturalist Louis Etienne Thirioux of Port Louis also discovered a large number of dodo remains in various locations. They included the only remnants of a juvenile specimen, a now-lost Tarsometatarsus, and the first articulated specimen, the first subfossil dodo skeleton discovered outside the Mare aux Songes. [22][37] The former specimen is the only known complete skeleton of a single dodo, discovered in a cave close to Le Pouce mountain in 1904. The specimen was given by Thirioux to the Museum Desjardins, which is now the Natural History Museum at the Mauritius Institute. In 1918, the heirs of Thioux sold a second mounted composite skeleton to the Durban Museum of Natural Science in South Africa. The skeleton was made up of at least two skeletons, with a primarily reconstructed skull. When combined, these two skeletons constitute the most comprehensively studied dodo remains known to science, containing previously unidentified bone elements like knee caps and wing bones. Even though some authors of the time acknowledged the significance of the Thrioux specimens, they were not examined scientifically and were mainly ignored until 2011, when a team of researchers started looking for them. After the mounted skeletons were laser scanned, 3-D models were created and used as the foundation for a monograph published in 2016 on the osteology of dodos. [131][132] In a lava cave in Mauritius, scientists found a dodo’s entire skeleton in 2006. This was the only recently discovered associated skeleton of an individual specimen, and only the second ever discovered overall. [133].

This article is cited by

  • Julian Pender Hume
  • David M. Martill
  • Christopher Dewdney


Why did dodo birds go extinct?

The Dodo is a lesson in extinction. Found by Dutch soldiers around 1600 on an island in the Indian Ocean, the Dodo became extinct less than 80 years later because of deforestation, hunting, and destruction of their nests by animals brought to the island by the Dutch.

Are dodo birds 100% extinct?

The dodo has been extinct since 1681; a combination of predation by humans and animals introduced by humans led to its downfall, turning it into a textbook case for extinction. But according to the partners, its return to Mauritius could benefit the dodo’s immediate environment and other species.

When was the last dodo bird found alive?

Its last confirmed sighting was in 1662, although an escaped slave claimed to have seen the bird as recently as 1674. In fact, it is estimated by using a Weibull distribution method that the dodo may have persisted until 1690, almost 30 years after its presumed extinction date.

Who killed the last dodo bird extinct?

No single cause drove the dodo into extinction. Humans hunted the naive birds, of course, but the rats, cats, pigs, and other animals that we brought along with us were just as destructive. The extinction of the dodo was not simply a matter of systematic extermination.