Dodo

Flightless Bird of the Solitaire family (Raphidae), thought extinct in Mauritius since at least 1690.

Etymology: From the Portuguese doudo ("fool" or "simpleton").

Scientific name: Raphus cucullatus, given by Carl von Linné in 1758.

Variant name: Dronte.

Physical description: Based on seventeenth-century accounts, this bulky bird had grayish plumage with whitish tail feathers. Length, about 3 feet 3 inches. Long, featherless, hooked beak. Its rudimentary wings were incapable of flight. Four toes, instead of the usual three.

Behavior: Clumsy. When running to escape capture, its body wobbled and its belly scraped the ground.

Distribution: Mauritius, in the Indian Ocean.

Significant sightings: Natives of Mauritius told Lawrence G. Green in the 1930s that Dodos still existed in caves and mountains on remote parts of the island.

Reports of Dodolike birds walking at dusk along the beach in the Plain Champagne area turned up in the early 1990s, enough to con dodo 137

The DODO ('Raphus cucullatus), a flightless bird thought extinct in Mauritius since at least 1690. From H. E. Strickland, The Dodo and Its Kindred (London: Reeve, Benham, and Reeve, 1848). (From the original in the Special Collections of Northwestern University Library)

vince William J. Gibbons to mount an expedition to the island in 1997.

Present status: The last known sighting of a living Dodo was in 1662 by Volquard Iverson. Possible explanations:

(1) Surviving Dodo, though this is extremely unlikely.

(2) Surviving unknown species of Solitaire (Raphidae) related to the Dodo.

(3) A Southern giant petrel (Macronectes giganteus), which averages 37 inches in length.

(4) Observations after 1662 may be the Mauritius red hen (Aphanapteryx bonasia), which was called the Dodo after the original bird was extinct.

Sources: Lawrence G. Green, Secret Africa (London: Stanley Paul, 1936); Masauji Hachisuka, The Dodo and Kindred Birds (London: H. F. and G. Witherby, 1953); Willy Ley, Exotic Zoology (New York: Viking, 1959), pp. 334-354; A. W. Diamond, ed., Studies of Mascarene Island Birds (New York:

Columbia University Press, 1987); Karl Shuker, "How Dead Is the Dodo?" Fate 42 (May 1989): 62-69; Karl Shuker, "From Dodos to Dimetrodons," Strange Magazine, no. 19 (Spring 1998): 22; Errol Fuller, Extinct Birds (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 2001), pp. 194-203.

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