Since our rise to dominance, humans have either been the main cause or a contributor for the extinction of numerous species; a few notable examples being the Tasmanian wolf and the giant moa. However, it’s the tale of the dodo that is perhaps the most famous extinction in human history, why is that?
What Did It Look Like?
The dodo was a large flightless bird that stood about a metre tall and weighed around twenty kilograms. As it disappeared long before photography was discovered, reconstructions of the dodo are primarily based on records by early European settlers. They describe the bird as bulky and plump with a distinctive crooked beak.
Where Did It Live?
There exists a common narrative that the dodo was always doomed for extinction, this based on its seemingly awkward body structure. In truth, the dodo was perfectly adapted to survive on its island home of Mauritius – its beak was perfect for picking apart fruit and crushing open nuts and the lack of predators meant it had no need to fly. All of this changed however when Europeans discovered the island and began to settle and colonise it. These days you’ll find many 5-star hotels in Mauritius which take inspiration for their design from the colonial times of old – The Residence Mauritius by Cenizaro is an example. The dodo, however, is long gone.
How Did It Go Extinct?
So, what made the dodo disappear? For starters, being flightless wasn’t an issue on an island with no predators. That had changed now. Dodos were virtually defenceless against humans who saw them as an easy source of food, and humans didn’t come alone – their ships were full of stowaways. Domestic cats and dogs were a major threat to adult dodos, while rats raided their nests for eggs. What’s more, large areas of the dodo’s natural habitat were cleared to make way for plantations. The combination of all these events was just too much and the dodo became extinct in the late 17th century.
The Dodo’s Legacy
The dodo is now regarded as a symbol of extinction and many environmental organisations use its likeness to promote the conservation of endangered species. It is presented as a cautionary tale that we humans can learn from; let’s not allow all the wonderful species we have around today go the way of the dodo.