Animal Database

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Animal Database
Animal Database
Range Mauritius
Scientific Classification
Kingdom Animalia
Phylum Chordata
Class Aves
Order Columbiformes
Family Columbidae
Genus Raphus
Species R. cucullatus
Conservation Status

The Dodo (Raphus cucullatus) is a species of the Raphus genus. The word "dodo" comes from the Portuguese word doudo which was first attested in the 17th Century. The word meant "crazy, out of one's mind". It is endemic in the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius that became extinct in the late 17th century, shortly after its 1598 discovery. It lived on a tropical island populated by only animals prior to the island's discovery, but afterwards became inhabited by people after the discovery of the island.


No complete Dodo specimens exist to this day, making its external appearance, such as plumage and colouration, hard to determine. Subfossil remains and remnants of the birds that were brought to Europe in the 17th century show that they were very large birds, one metre tall, and possibly weighing up to 23 kg. Although the higher weights are all attributed to birds in captivity, some estimates give an average weight of 10.2 kg in the Dodo's natural habitat. Other estimates of natural Dodo weights have been in the range of 10.6–21.1 kg. It had a 23-centimetre bill with a hooked point. A study of the few remaining feathers on the Oxford specimen head showed that they were plumaceous rather than vaned. The sternum was insufficient to support flight and the wings were very small. These features have been argued to indicate paedomorphosis.


Little is known of the behaviour of the Dodo, as most contemporary descriptions are very brief. Studies of the cantilever strength of its leg bones indicate that it was able to run quite fast.he legs were robust and strong to support the bulk of the bird, and also made it agile and manoeuvrable in the dense, pre-human landscape. Though the wings were small, well-developed muscle scars on the bones show that they were not completely vestigial, and may have been used for display behaviour and balance; extant pigeons also use their wings for such purposes. Unlike the Rodrigues solitaire, there is no evidence that the dodo used its wings in intraspecific combat. Though some dodo bones have been found with healed fractures, it had weak pectoral muscles and more reduced wings in comparison. The dodo may instead have used its large, hooked beak in territorial disputes. Since Mauritius receives more rainfall and has less seasonal variation than Rodrigues, which would have affected the availability of resources on the island, the dodo would have less reason to evolve aggressive territorial behaviour. The Rodrigues solitaire was therefore probably the more aggressive of the two. In 2016, the first 3D endocast was made from the brain of the dodo; the brain-to-body-size ratio was similar to that of modern pigeons, indicating that dodos were probably equal in intelligence.


The Dodo likely subsisted on fallen fruits, nuts, seeds, bulbs and roots. It probably used gastroliths, or stomach stones (gastro meaning stomach, and lith meaning stone) to aid in digestion.


Like many animals that evolved in isolation from significant predators, the dodo was entirely fearless of humans. This fearlessness and its inability to fly made the dodo easy prey for sailors. Although some scattered reports describe mass killings of dodos for ships' provisions, archaeological investigations have found scant evidence of human predation. Bones of at least two dodos were found in caves at Baie du Cap that sheltered fugitive slaves and convicts in the 17th century, which would not have been easily accessible to dodos because of the high, broken terrain. The human population on Mauritius (an area of 1,860 km2 or 720 sq mi) never exceeded 50 people in the 17th century, but they introduced other animals, including dogs, pigs, cats, rats, and crab-eating macaques, which plundered dodo nests and competed for the limited food resources. At the same time, humans destroyed the forest habitat of the dodos. The impact of the introduced animals on the dodo population, especially the pigs and macaques, is today considered more severe than that of hunting.