Science Blast: Fighting Dodos!

Birds that used their wings like clubs!  What’s next? Flying penguins?

Rodrigues Solitaire

Two male Rodrigues solitaires fight over a female, in the background,
using club-like wings

The other Dodo:
Extinct bird that used its wings as clubs

The extinct Dodo had a little-known relative on another island. This fascinating bird ultimately suffered the same fate as its iconic cousin, but we can reconstruct some of its biology thanks to the writings of a French explorer who studied it during his travels of the Indian Ocean.

In the middle of the 18th Century, at around the time the US was signing the declaration of independence, a large flightless bird quietly became extinct on an island in the Indian Ocean.

Today this bird is all but forgotten.

Early explorers to Rodrigues described a “Dodo” living on the tiny forested island. Males were grey-brown, and females sandy, both having strong legs and long, proud necks. But despite outward similarities to the iconic Mauritian bird, this wasn’t in fact a Dodo, but the Rodrigues solitaire.

If you look up Rodrigues in satellite images, you can see a huge ring of submerged land around the central island, over 50% of the original dry land is thought to have been lost under the waves due to sea-level rise and the island subsiding into the bedrock.

That was the stage for the evolution of the huge bird, over millions of years.

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