"Pickwick, a regenerated pet dodo"
Dodo East London Museum, South Africa
GNU Free Documentation LicenseDodo East London Museum, South Africa - Credit: Frode Inge Helland

The dodo is one of the most famous extinct animals. The story of this guileless bird, which lived for so long without predators that it lost its ability to fly, is a tragic example of how easily extinctions can take place. When the first humans arrived on the island of Mauritius in 1505 the dodo was an easy meal for sailors. Later, when the island was used as a Dutch penal colony, rats were inadvertently introduced to the island along with the pigs and monkeys that were transported with the convicts. The dodo had to face predators that it could not fly or hide from. The last dodo was killed in 1681. No one had thought to preserve a complete specimen.

Alice in Wonderland
Public DomainAlice in Wonderland - Credit: John Tenniel

 

No one seems sure what the dodo originally looked like. It may have been much slimmer and more streamlined than the fat, lethargic victim usually portrayed. The birds that were brought back to Europe were probably fed the wrong food, and too much of it, so that they lost their shape. While the dodo may in fact have been slim, he'll be forever immortalised as the chubby race master in Lewis Carrols “Alice in Wonderland.”