Exploring Nature: The Dodo

The dodo, a now extinct bird, was endemic to the island of Mauritius. PHOTO COURTESY OF THE BIODIVERSITY HERITAGE LIBRARY

Pity the poor dodo.

A bird noted for its fat, flightless body, the dodo was a long-time inhabitant of the island of Mauritus. It could not swim, so it was a permanent island resident.

Dutch sailors took possession of the island in 1598 and named the bird “dodaars,” meaning “fat arse.” As indicated by that name, the dodo got little respect and to make matters worse, it was sometimes eaten by the sailors.

One traveler to the island wrote this description of the bird: “They were as big as large turkeys covered with down, having little hanging wings like short sleeves altogether useless to fly with.”

Live dodos were brought to London in the 1600s and kept in menageries. When they died, they were stuffed for public exhibition.

Today, all that remains of the bird, in museums in England and Denmark, are a couple of skulls and feet, plus a massive beak located in Prague.

A painting of the dodo was once on display at Oxford University and inspired Lewis Carroll to include a dodo in his book, “Alice in Wonderland.”

San Marcos Daily Record

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