Archive for the 'ornithology' Category

Fiche Thématique du Dodo

Tuesday, January 5th, 2010

Dodo by Muséum d'histoire naturelle, Genève

I have no idea how or when did I found this, but probably a long long time ago a saved a link the following PDF: Fiches Thématiques De la Bibliothèque du MHNG nº2 – Le Dodo. The MHNG in question is the Muséum d’histoire naturelle de la Ville de Genève. I tried to find a page that links to that PDF without any luck, so I choose share it directly.

The thematic card is all in French, but if you already know the dodos history there are not many news on it. It tells the sad story of our so much loved bird, the researches all over the years, more ornithology info about it, suggestion of books, and 3 images. One is the cute dodo above, and the other two are:  Facsimile of Savery’s figure of the Dodo in his picture of the Fall of Adam in the Royal Gallery, Berlin and a dodo image from The dodo and its kindred by A.G.Melville (1848).

Bookplate: Dronte

Wednesday, October 3rd, 2007

Der Dronte - bookplate detail

Ornithology bookplate

Bookplate illustration (and detail) from Neue Seite 1.

1. Dronte (Raphus cucullatus),[ausgestorben]

Bei Oken: Walgvogel (Didus ineptus)

2. Kiwi (Apteryx australis)

Bei Oken: Kiwi (Aptery australis)

3. Großtrappe (Otis tarda)

Bei Oken: Trappe (Otis tarda)

4. Helmkasuar (Casuarius casuarius)

Bei Oken: Casuar (Casuarius indicus)

5. Strauß (Struthio camelus)

Bei Oken: Strauß (Struthio camelus)

Dodo Books

Tuesday, September 4th, 2007

Dodo Books

Dodo Books: Natural History Bargains and Secondhand. Do they have books about dodos? Sure they have books about dodos.

Interesting and unusual books from all over the world on all aspects of natural history, ecology and environmental science, including palaeontology & geology.

Also books on the history and culture of the islands of the Indian Ocean – home of the late lamented dodo.

Dodo on the booksEach page of the site has a nice dodo cartoon, like this one. They were created by Lucy and Anthony Cheke. Anthony seems to be a great guy. He says: From the mid-1960s until 1981 I worked in plant and animal ecology in Oxford, Thailand and Mauritius, with visits and expeditions to Japan, Corsica, Ethiopia and the Ivory Coast. He published a book about his project in Mauritius, opened the Dodo Books, and since the mid-1990s he has again been involved in ornithological travel and the ecological history & conservation of the Mascarene Islands. And his plans also include a new book on the way.

But there is more, he also kindly left his most recent publications available to download as PDFs on his page. Among the very interesting articles you will find more scientific information about dodos and “their” island, Mauritius.

Dodo Books Dodo reading

Birds arrived comparatively late

Monday, September 3rd, 2007

From the PBS article about evolution by Gareth Huw Davies The Life of Birds: Birds arrived comparatively late.

The DodoBirds living on small islands are highly vulnerable to extinction. Many have become flightless in the absence of natural predators, and when man arrived, with rats, cats and other animals, the birds stand little chance. Over 90% of birds that have become extinct during historical times lived on islands.

The dodo is the tragic symbol of bird extermination. This large, flightless, turkey-sized pigeon lived on the tropical island of Mauritius. A fruit-eater, it had little reason to move fast or fly. It was easy prey for man the hunter.

The sailor Volquard Iversen, shipwrecked on Mauritius for 5 days in 1662, gave the last eye witness account. He wrote: “They were larger than geese but not able to fly. Instead of wings they had small flaps, but they could run very fast.” Not fast enough, though, for human hunters, Only fossils and a few preserved specimens remain to remind us of this tragic species.

Description of the Dodo

Sunday, September 2nd, 2007

Dodo bird (raphus cucullatus)

One more nice page about dodos: Description of the Dodo bird (raphus cucullatus) from the Birds of Mauritius site. The page starts with the dodo “portrait” above and the Old Print of a Dodo:

The dodo was a flightless bird native only to the island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean. The dodo was a flightless member of the pigeon family. Fully grown dodos weighted about 23 kg (50 pounds). Around 1505 the Portuguese became the first Europeans to discover the dodo. By 1681 it had been driven to extinction by humans and the feral dogs, pigs, rats, and monkeys introduced by Europeans to Mauritius.

It talks a bit more about its history, the physical characteristics, natural history, including food habits, reproduction, habitat and behavior; and about the economic importance for humans, including the positive point and conservation, which means extinction. The “positive” description says:

The main purpose dodos served to humans, in the brief contact between the two species, was as food. The sailors frequently fed on wildlife from Mauritius while staying there, although it has been said that dodo meat was not particularly tasty. Still, they were hunted intensely, with sailors sometimes bringing back as many as 50 at a time. What they couldn’t eat right away they would salt and bring back with them. A few attempts were made to bring back a dodo alive. When this was successful, entrepreneurs would capitalize on the unique looks of the bird and tour the dodos around Europe, displaying them in cages and demonstrating how the dodo could “eat” stones. (Strickland and Melville, 1848) (Fuller, 1987)

I don’t want to copy all the text from the page, because it’s a good reference and I want people to visit it. The page also includes links to more dodo sites, scientific information, bibliography, and links to articles, included in the site. Almost all the articles were already blogged about here. I would like also to suggest their Images of the Dodo page.

Update: I removed all the links, since the whole site is gone and the links were broken.

Missing bird species rediscovered

Monday, August 27th, 2007

The Sydney Morning Herald from Reuters: Missing bird species rediscovered.

A bird species that has not been seen since the remains of one were found in India 140 years ago is alive and living in Thailand, scientists say.

The live Large-billed Reed-warbler was found by chance by ornithologist Philip Round as he was putting identification tags on wild birds at a water treatment plant near Bangkok last year.

“Although reed-warblers are generally drab and look very similar, one of the birds I caught that morning struck me as very odd, something about it didn’t quite add up; it had a long beak and short wings,” he said in a statement.

“Then, it dawned on me – I was probably holding a Large-billed Reed-warbler. I was dumbstruck, it felt as if I was holding a living dodo,” he said.

(Thanks Arbee!)

Extinct Dodo Related to Pigeons

Wednesday, January 17th, 2007

An old news, from when they discovered that the Extinct Dodo Related to Pigeons, DNA Shows:

Dodo skeleton from Oxford University Museum of Natural History The dodo, poster bird for species extinction, has a pitiful reputation as a stupendously overweight idiot of a bird that couldn’t even fly. But scientific evidence is slowly correcting that impression. Its new rep: an evolutionary success, perfectly adapted to its living conditions, thin and relatively fast, but still an early victim to the spread of man. […]

The adaptations the dodo made for island living—flightlessness and gigantism—have made understanding its evolutionary history and classifying it based on body characteristics difficult. Over the years, the dodo has been grouped with the carnivorous raptors; ratites, which include emus and ostriches; parrots; and shorebirds. Since the mid-1800s, the dodo has been classified as part of the family that includes pigeons and doves. But there has been no hard proof.

Molecular analysis of DNA retrieved from a dodo specimen at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History, England, confirms that the bird belongs firmly in the middle of the pigeon tree in evolutionary terms, reports a study published in the March 1 issue of the journal Science. Its closest living relative is the Nicobar pigeon, which lives in the Nicobar Islands and Southeast Asia, and it is part of a group of large island-dwelling birds that spend a great deal of time on the ground. Other modern representatives include the crowned pigeons of New Guinea and the tooth-billed pigeon of Samoa. [..]

“Island taxa such as the dodo and solitaire often represent extreme examples of evolution—and if we want to examine how we, or the life around us, evolved then such animals are very educational,” said Alan Cooper, a zoologist at the University of Oxford and one of the co-authors of the study. “By examining island birds we can investigate how evolution works—because extreme examples are often the best views of how something works.”

Earlier scientists had speculated that the dodo, and its closest relative, the also-extinct solitaire, descended from migratory African pigeons that got lost and colonized the islands. The genetic evidence clearly shows that the dodo and solitaire came from southeast Asia, where all their close relatives remain.

The Oxford scientists can’t tell when the dodo arrived on Mauritius, or when it became flightless. Geological evidence indicates that the island was created as a result of volcanic activity and emerged from the water about 8 million years ago. Whether the birds flew, swam or hitched a ride on floating debris like trees or clumps of seaweed, remains unknown. The DNA evidence does indicate that the dodo and the solitaire separated from a common ancestor about 25.6 million years ago. The common ancestor separated from other Southeast Asian birds around 42.6 million years ago.

It’s an excellent, but a bit long article to post. Check it all here.

More Dodo Expeditie Info

Thursday, January 11th, 2007

Dodo's en reuzenschildpadden in de Mare aux Songes

It seems that the Dodo Expedition had a happy end: Discovery of lower body of Dodo, complete skeleton within reach.

Besides Dodo bones the research team recovered bones of the extinct giant tortoise (Cylindraspis) and bones of jet unidentified reptile and bird species. Also they encountered abundant seed material of endemic trees including those of the Tambalacoque (Dodo tree). A few specimens of this nearly extinct tree currently occur in the central part of Mauritius. It is therefore a great surprise that these seeds occur nearby the sea at Mare aux Songes. Mauritian and European scientists investigate how it is possible that so many bones and seeds have been so well conserved in the soil after several thousands of years and why the locality is so extremely rich in bone material.

Julian Hume found a dodo bone
The purpose of the current expedition is to reconstruct the world of the Dodo (Raphus cucullatus) before Western man set foot on the island of Mauritius and wiped out the species. The expedition will seek to clarify the Dodos ecotope and explain why it became extinct. The excavation in Mare aux Songes, in the south eastern tip of Mauritius will continue to the 3rd of July 2006.

The immediate reason for this expedition was the rare find on 28 October 2005 of a completely undisturbed layer of botanic remains and bones, including Dodo fossils, on the island of Mauritius. This material is up to 3000 years old. There have been previous 20th-century finds of Dodo bones on Mauritius, but no-one previously sought to study the geology or ecology of these sites. This type of research is needed to reconstruct the landscape, fauna and flora and establish whether these animals were wiped out all at once by a natural disaster. The Mascarene Islands, of which Mauritius is one, are unique in that they probably have the only Dodo-fossil sites in the world.

The expedition ended, but there are some interesting material about dodos in the site. Unfortunately I couldn’t find the English version of that part of the site and all the links goes to pages in Dutch. Doel van de expeditie talks (I think) about the expedition, the first dodo bone find in many time, in 2005, that inspired this new expedition and traces what could have been the dodo habitat.

Julian Hume dodo habitat
Reconstruction of the dodo habitat at the time of the early Dutch colonisation of Mauritius, in the 17th century, by Julian Hume, 2005

From this Naturalis page go to explore other sessions about the expedition: who participated, site explored – Mare aux Songes, the techniques used at the lad to study the bones and an informative about the dodo.

At the informative page, the session Dodo fact sheet has more information about dodos, their habitat, dodos at museums, a brief history of dodos after the Netherlands colonization, dodo DNA and a dodo skeleton compared with a Roelant Savery painting:

Savery painting - dodo skeleton

And finally the Stuur uw dodo-foto’s in contains pictures of dodo’s skeletons from other museums: American Museum of Natural History of New York and The Natural History Museum of London.

Bird Extinction Estimates May Be Too Low

Wednesday, January 10th, 2007

From Scientific American an interesting article about birds and dodos too: Bird Extinction Estimates May Be Too Low.

Since 1500, more than 150 bird species have disappeared from the world, including the much lamented dodo. This ground bird disappeared from its island home before Carl Linnaeus, the father of scientific taxonomy, even described it in the 18th century. Given that many of the nearly 10,000 known bird species have only recently been described–including those only available from remains like the dodo–some biologists suggest that current extinction rates have been seriously underestimated and will rise rapidly in the coming century.

Stuart Pimm of Duke University and his colleagues analyzed current estimates of bird extinction rates. Out of 9,975 known bird species, 154 have disappeared, or roughly 1.3 percent. Extrapolated, this yields an estimate of 26 extinctions per million bird species every year. Based on fossil records, scientists estimate that normal extinction rates average just one lost animal for every million species per year.

Read the whole article here.

Dronte by Lorenz Oken

Friday, June 30th, 2006


Dronte (Raphus cucullatus), Walgvogel (Didus ineptus), by Lorenz Oken, from Arbeiten über Lorenz Oken. BTW, Peter Bertau – Arbeiten über Lorenz Oken looks a great site for those that have any interest in ornithology.