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No longer as dead as a dodo, thanks to UCT

9 Oct 2017 - 15:15

Hundreds of years after the dodo became extinct, the micro-structure of its bones has given scientists new clues about how it lived.

The dodo was endemic to Mauritius, and was first described by Dutch sailors in 1598. Less than 100 years later, the large, flightless bird had become extinct, thanks to hunting and the introduction of invasive species such as monkeys and rats.

It met its demise long before scientists could make detailed scientific records: the little that was known about it came from sailors’ reports, which were imprecise and contradictory. Now an international team of researchers, that includes scientists from the University of Cape Town (UCT), has used its bones to piece together the puzzle of its breeding and moulting cycle.

"The dodo has been reasonably well-studied, but the sad thing is there is so little known about its natural history — how it grew and reproduced. Our study was able to fill in many of these gaps," said UCT paleobiologist Anusuya Chinsamy-Turan, co-author of a study describing the research which was published in Nature Scientific Reports last month.