Dodo

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Dodo (Raphus cucullatus). A meter-high flightless bird on Mauritius. It lived on fruit and nested on the ground.

The dodo was entirely fearless of people, and this in combination with its flightlessness made it easy prey. The island was first settled by the Portugese in 1505, and they found the dodo an excellent food source, weighing up to 16.1 kilos. The adult dodos were hunted for food, but this was not the only threat. When humans arrived, they also brought with them other animals that had not existed on the island before, like pigs, rats and monkeys who plundered the dodo nests.

The last dodo was killed in 1681, and no complete specimens are preserved.

Recently, scientists discovered that a species of tree on Mauritius was dying out. There were only 13 specimens left, and all of them were about 300 years old, dating from the time when the last dodo was killed. It was discovered that the dodos ate the seeds of the tree, and only by passing through the digestive tract of the dodo did the seeds become active and start to grow. After a while, it was discovered that the same effect could be accomplished by letting turkeys eat the seeds. The tree species is saved, and it is now called dodo tree.

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