17 Mar Resurrecting the dodo
A group of researchers, including Kenneth Rijsdijk from the University of Amsterdam’s Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics (IBED) and Leon Claessens from the Dutch Natural History museum Naturalis, managed to make a 3D reconstruction of dodo skeletons. Using this relatively new method they can obtain information on the appearance, movements, life and evolutionary history of the dodo. So now also you can see what this resurrected dodo looks like in David Attenborough’s Natural History Museum Alive!
Why resurrect a dodo?
There are several reasons why it is not just fun, but also helpful:
- First, research on this famous extinct bird can provide information on the conservation of current endangered species.
- Second, the model used for the dodo uses the relation between bones, musculature and body mass. This same model can be used for research towards obesity and maybe the bio-industry. This might answer questions on how fat a chicken can become and still be able to walk.
- Finally, the very fast evolutionary switch from flying doves towards the much bigger flightless dodos is very relevant for fundamental evolutionary research.
Extremely short dodo history
Dodos were present on Mauritius for some time before humans populated the island. Actually, according to Erik de Boer, who did a PhD on the ecology of Mauritius at IBED, the dodo survived an extreme drought thousands of years before the arrival of the Dutch, showing that these thick-headed silly birds were more resilient than generally thought. Extinction occurred somewhere around 1662 – 1693, probably not under direct influence of the human population on the island, but by the introduction of exotic species like the black rat and monkeys.
Only one dodo skeleton in the world is actually complete, and is exhibited on Mauritius. This is why for this study very detailed laser scans were made of several semi-complete dodo skeletons. As most exhibited skeletons are composed of many individuals, they only used those skeletons of which it was known they were from one individual.
Integration of different body tissues
The digital 3D dodo skeletons that are constructed from the scans were combined with a reconstruction of the musculature and other bodily tissues. The same method has been used in research towards the Tyrannosaurus rex.
Coming back to David Attenborough’s Natural History Museum Alive, which extinct animal would you like to see coming alive? I was thinking about a sabre-toothed cat or maybe a pterosaur… just think about it; a gigantic flying reptile!