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Dodo Bird (Raphus)


raphus dodo bird

Raphus, the Dodo Bird (Oxford Museum of Natural History)


Dodo Bird; also known as Raphus; pronounced RAY-fuss


Island of Mauritius

Historical Period:

Pleistocene-Modern (2 million-300 years ago)

Size and Weight:

About 3 feet tall and 50 pounds



Distinguishing Characteristics:

Plump, squat body; large beak


About the Dodo Bird:

Raphus, better known as the Dodo Bird, is practically synonymous with the concept of extinction (ever heard the phrase "as dead as a Dodo?") For hundreds of thousands of years, beginning in the Pleistocene epoch, this squat, plump, flightless, turkey-sized prehistoric bird grazed contentedly on the remote Indian Ocean island of Mauritius, unharassed by any natural predators. When the first human settlers, Dutch traders, landed on the island in the 15th century, they hunted the hapless Dodo to extinction (and any stragglers were picked off by the pigs and dogs they brought with them). See 10 Facts About the Dodo Bird

In modern times, the Dodo's inexorable extinction would have provoked calls for conservation and Dodo wildlife preserves, but these considerations weren't high on the 17th-century priority list. Ironically, according to contemporary accounts, the Dodo didn't even taste very good, which may be the story behind its original Dutch name, "walgvoghel" ("loathsome bird."). As for the name Dodo itself, that's shrouded in mystery, though it may have something to do with "dodoor," the Dutch word for "sluggard." (By the way, it may yet be possible to re-breed populations of Dodo Birds, a controversial program known as de-extinction.)


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