Archive for the 'science' 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).

Land Speculator Michael Winer Wins 2009 Rubber Dodo Award

Tuesday, January 5th, 2010

Third annual Rubber Dodo Award: Michael Winer, Land Speculator

And the Dodo Award unfortunately had to choose one more winner last year. If you are following The Dodo Blog on Twitter you already know that The Center for Biological Diversity announced Michael Winer, portfolio manager for the giant real-estate investment firm Third Avenue Management, LLC (“TAREX”), as the winner of its third annual Rubber Dodo Award for : “His Wall St. Firm Pushing Largest Developments in California and Florida Imperiling Dozens of Endangered Species, Including Condors on Tejon Ranch“. Not an easy work, but there is always a monster to do such things.

Winer is deserving of the 2009 award for his leadership of TAREX, the largest stockholder in companies developing the largest pieces of private land remaining in Southern California and Florida. These regions are also home to some the highest numbers of endangered species in North America. In California, TAREX is pushing the Tejon Ranch Company to pave over thousands of acres of federally designated California condor habitat. In Florida, TAREX is pushing the St. Joe Company to flood tens of thousands of acres of the Florida Panhandle with high-end developments.

“Under Winer’s money-obsessed leadership, TAREX has become the poster child for unsustainable, endangered-species-killing sprawl,” said Adam Keats, director of the Center’s Urban Wildlands Program. “He specializes in finding massive, remote estates far from urban centers and turning them into a sea of condos, malls, golf courses, and resorts. There is good reason that even Wall Street commonly calls TAREX a ‘real-estate vulture’.” (more…)

The way of the digital dodo

Wednesday, June 10th, 2009

scanned dodo renderedAn early version of the scanned dodo rendered by project research technician Abby Drake and students in Leon Claessens’ lab.

From PhysOrg, The way of the digital dodo: The laser light glowed brilliant red, forming a moving line as it bounced information from the dodo’s bones back into the high-tech scanner sitting on a tripod on the Museum of Comparative Zoology’s (MCZ) fifth floor.

Again and again, the red line traced the contours of the skeletal bird, one of just a handful of complete skeletons of one of the world’s most famous cases of human-caused extinction.

The flightless bird, about the size of a large turkey, was native to the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius. It became extinct in the mid- to late-1600s from a combination of human hunting, habitat destruction, and predation by introduced animals, including rats, cats, pigs, and dogs.

The laser’s tracings were creating a 3-D digital model of the skeleton, compiled as part of a joint effort between the MCZ’s ornithological collection, overseen by Professor of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology Scott Edwards, and Holy Cross College biologist Leon Claessens, an assistant professor whose doctoral work at Harvard and familiarity with the MCZ’s collections led to the collaboration. Claessens received his doctorate in 2006.

The National Science Foundation-funded, three-year effort aims to create 3-D digital models of each species represented in Harvard’s collection of 12,000 bird skeletons. It will make those digital models available on the Internet for researchers around the world. The collection’s digitization will not only vastly expand access to the collections for researchers who can’t afford to travel to Cambridge, it will also make analysis of the specimens far more rapid, using powerful engineering software that creates thousands of data points on each bone that can be manipulated, measured, and used in calculations.

“This project will be useful for people studying the basic morphology of birds,” Edwards said. “In this era of genomics, the size and shape of bones is still very important.”

Claessens, who has been scanning with a group of his students since the “Aves 3D” project got under way in August, said much of the effort is aimed at disarticulated bones of specimens, so that the scanner can image the entire bone, including the ends and surfaces that might not be accessible in an assembled specimen. Researchers interested in the shape and size of a particular bone across different species will be able to call up those bones digitally, rather than traveling to individual museums with calipers, pencil, pad, and camera, as would be required today. Those interested in other aspects of anatomy can manipulate the bones digitally, even reassembling the bird if needed.

Keep reading on PhysOrg.

Alaska Governor Sarah Palin Wins 2008 Rubber Dodo Award

Wednesday, May 27th, 2009

The 2008 Rubber Dodo Award goes to Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin

Those are old news, but I didn’t share it here yet and the dodos were very pleased that she isn’t the vice president of USA. The dodos really don’t like her. And those were the news from the Center for Biological Diversity: Alaska Governor Sarah Palin Wins 2008 Rubber Dodo Award. Palin Has Sought to Remove Endangered Species Act Protection for the Polar Bear, Suppressed and Lied About State Global Warming Studies, and Denied That Global Warming Is Caused by Greenhouse Gas Emissions

“Governor Palin has waged a deceptive, dangerous, and costly battle against the polar bear,” said Kieran Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity. “Her position on global warming is so extreme, she makes Dick Cheney look like an Al Gore devotee.”

Palin has waged a deceptive public relations campaign, asserting that the polar bear is increasing. But many populations (including Alaska’s southern Beaufort Sea) are in decline and two-thirds (including all Alaska bears) are projected to disappear by 2050 by the U.S. Geological Survey.

Palin has repeatedly asserted that Alaska Department of Fish and Game scientists found fatal flaws in the sea ice models used by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to determine the polar bear is threatened. When challenged, Palin refused to release the alleged state review. Independent scientists eventually obtained a summary through the federal Freedom of Information Act, revealing that Palin had lied: The state mammalogists concurred with the Fish and Wildlife Service determination that Arctic sea ice is melting at an extraordinary rate and threatens the polar bear with extinction.

“All global warming deniers are eventually forced to suppress scientific studies, and Palin is no different,” said Suckling. “To maintain her ludicrous opposition to protecting the polar bear in the face of massive scientific consensus, Palin stepped over the line to lie about and suppress government science.”

Palin has since filed a frivolous lawsuit against the Bush administration to have the threatened listing overturned. Meanwhile, the U.S. Geological Survey announced on September 16th that the 2008 summertime Arctic sea-ice melt was the second greatest on record, nearly matching the extraordinary melt of 2007.

“Palin’s insistence that Arctic melting is ‘uncertain’ is like someone debating the theory of gravity as they plunge off a cliff,” said Suckling. “It’s hopeless, reckless, and extremely cynical.”

Le Dodo

Tuesday, October 2nd, 2007

Le Dodo

Espèces emblématiques disparues par la faute de l’homme (Emblematic species extinct because of men): French article about Le Dodo (The Dodo).

The Voyage of the Odyssey

Wednesday, September 12th, 2007

replicas of the dodo

The Way of the Dodo is a 2003 log from PBS‘ program “The Voyage of the Odyssey” written by environmental educator Sara Earhart. The page contains some images, the audio and the log transcript. It starts with:

The Dodo (Raphus cucullatus) is arguably the most common icon associated with the island nation of Mauritius. Although it was only about 300 years ago that the dodo became extinct, very little is known about this bird. Ironically, even though the dodo lived into the time of written history, more is known about the natural history and behaviour of some dinosaurs than is known about the dodo. Its appearance, life history, and the history of its extinction all remain a mystery. The written reports and illustrations of sailors and ship’s naturalists who visited Mauritius in the 17th century are the basis of all known information. Primary sources, such as these, should not be accepted without question as they are subject to inconsistencies, elaborations, and artistic interpretation-thus the difficulty in creating a true picture of this unique relative of the pigeon.

Ok, nothing new until now. The log goes with the description of their history, habitat, the Dutch, their description and there it goes. It’s interesting, but we all know this story – if you don’t know visit the archives of this blog! To conclude the log:

Over a period of 40-50 years, human influences exerted more and more pressure on the dodo population. The last known written encounter with a dodo was recorded in 1662 by Volquard Iverson, a Dutch sailor stranded on Mauritius. He and his fellow castaways searched the island high and low for food and only encountered a small group of dodos on a coastal islet just off shore. Unfortunately, this was also the last known record of the dodo.

The dodo is the most famous animal extinction in human history. With its death came the realization that humans have the ability to extinguish an entire species. Ironically, once the dodo was declared “extinct” there was a surge in dodo research lasting more than 150 years. Today the dodo lives on in Mauritius only as a national symbol and as an image on textiles, woodcarvings, and souvenirs in local markets and shops. However, it is always present in one’s imagination to remind us that resources are not infinite and that humans must protect the world’s species, lest they too go “the way of the dodo.”

Dodo Skeleton Found on Island

Tuesday, September 11th, 2007

Dodo Skeleton Found on Island

Dodo Skeleton Found on Island, May Yield Extinct Bird’s DNA by Kate Ravilious for National Geographic News:

Adventurers exploring a cave on an island in the Indian Ocean have discovered the most complete and well-preserved dodo skeleton ever found, scientists reported yesterday.

Researchers say the find would likely yield the first useful samples of the extinct, flightless bird’s DNA.

If you follow this blog, you know I already linked to the same news on the posts Bones Could Yield Dodo DNA and Flightless Fred has scientists in raptures. However, that National Geographic article is good, as usual, and there more additional information on it.

Until now most of the information about dodos has come from scattered bone fragments. Only one other full skeleton was ever unearthed—in the 1860s—but it has been of limited scientific value, because the person who discovered it never revealed where it was found.

“We need to know about the location to understand the ecology of the dodo,” said Kenneth Rijsdijk, a scientist with Geological Survey of the Netherlands, who plans to study the environment in which the newfound bird was discovered.

The site of the new dodo skeleton and the layout of its bones has been precisely recorded, making the find already very useful to scientists, he added.

“We can take soil samples and discover how and why the animal got there,” Rijskijk said.

What’s more, the location of the new skeleton makes it much more likely to yield DNA, said Beth Shapiro, a geneticist from Oxford University who studies dodo remains. […]

The cave site of the new skeleton is likely to provide the best hope of a decent DNA sample because the bones will not have been exposed to sunlight and the temperature was fairly constant, she added.

“We are really excited about the new find and hope it might tell us much more about the behavior and appearance of dodos,” Shapiro said.

PS.: Photograph from Reuters, inset illustration from Getty Images.

Dodo has become an icon

Tuesday, September 11th, 2007

Expatica, 11 May 2007: Dodo has become an icon. But you already knew that, don’t you?

The dodo has become an international icon for species that have died out because of human activity.

Fifty dodo experts met in Leiden on Friday to share their still scarce information on the mysterious animal. Dutch scientists found leg and toe bones from a dodo, part of a hip bone, vertebrae and a beak in 2005.

“The fascination for the dodo stems from that fact that so few people saw the bird,” says palaeontologist Anwar Janoo, the only Mauritian at the conference.

Update: the article was removed.

Dodofélék statue

Tuesday, September 4th, 2007

Raphus cucullatus dodo statue

Statue of a mauriciuszi dodo (Raphus cucullatus), from the site of birds by the Hungarian ecologist, parasitologist and writer Rózsa Lajos. I don’t speak the language, but I think that “Dodofélék” means “Dodo Bird” according to the site.

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