Bringing the dodo back to life

Bringing the dodo back to life …, an excellent article by By Steve Connor, from The New Zealand Herald, about this new expedition:

Dodo

Much of what is known about the appearance of the dodo comes from contemporary drawings and paintings. But these were often inaccurate, subject to the fashions of the time – such as the 17th century predilection for painting over-plump birds.

“The dodo, one of the most documented and famous of birds and a leading contender as the icon of extinction, has endured more than its fair share of overzealous misinterpretation,” said Dr Hume.

In fact, it became so mythologised that some 19th-century scholars began to doubt that it ever existed, believing that the rather poorly preserved specimens were elaborate hoaxes.

In fact all of these specimens were made from the incomplete skeletons of many different individuals. Trying to guess what the real dodo looked like was an uphill struggle.

One problem was its weight. Many of the early paintings depict it as an overweight, almost obese creature that could barely support itself. But, at least one illustration dating from the first Dutch exploration depicts the dodo as a rather slim, even nimble bird.

In reality, it is possible that the dodo was both fat and slim. In other words it may have been adapted to putting on weight quickly in times of plenty – during the wet season, for instance, when there was lots of ripe fruit to eat – which would have allowed it to survive the leaner times of the dry season.

Dodos kept in captivity could just have been overfed, which is why they tended to look much fatter than other birds of a similar shape and size.

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