The dodo, Raphus cucullatus, a flightless pigeon endemic to Mauritius, became extinct during the 17(th) century due to anthropogenic activities. Although it was contemporaneous with humans for almost a century, little was recorded about its ecology. Here we present new aspects of the life history of the dodo based on our analysis of its bone histology. We propose that the dodo bred around August and that the rapid growth of the chicks enabled them to reach a robust size before the austral summer or cyclone season. Histological evidence of molting suggests that after summer had passed, molt began in the adults that had just bred; the timing of molt derived from bone histology is also corroborated by historical descriptions of the dodo by mariners. This research represents the only bone histology analysis of the dodo and provides an unprecedented insight into the life history of this iconic bird.
The external appearance of the dodo (Raphus cucullatus, Linnaeus, 1758) has been a source of considerable intrigue, as contemporaneous accounts or depictions are rare. The body mass of the dodo has been particularly contentious, with the flightless pigeon alternatively reconstructed as slim or fat depending upon the skeletal metric used as the basis for mass prediction. Resolving this dichotomy and obtaining a reliable estimate for mass is essential before future analyses regarding dodo life history, physiology or biomechanics can be conducted. Previous mass estimates of the dodo have relied upon predictive equations based upon hind limb dimensions of extant pigeons. Yet the hind limb proportions of dodo have been found to differ considerably from those of their modern relatives, particularly with regards to midshaft diameter. Therefore, application of predictive equations to unusually robust fossil skeletal elements may bias mass estimates. We present a whole-body computed tomography (CT) -based mass estimation technique for application to the dodo. We generate 3D volumetric renders of the articulated skeletons of 20 species of extant pigeons, and wrap minimum-fit ‘convex hulls’ around their bony extremities. Convex hull volume is subsequently regressed against mass to generate predictive models based upon whole skeletons. Our best-performing predictive model is characterized by high correlation coefficients and low mean squared error (a = - 2.31, b = 0.90, r (2) = 0.97, MSE = 0.0046). When applied to articulated composite skeletons of the dodo (National Museums Scotland, NMS.Z.1993.13; Natural History Museum, NHMUK A.9040 and S/1988.50.1), we estimate eviscerated body masses of 8-10.8 kg. When accounting for missing soft tissues, this may equate to live masses of 10.6-14.3 kg. Mass predictions presented here overlap at the lower end of those previously published, and support recent suggestions of a relatively slim dodo. CT-based reconstructions provide a means of objectively estimating mass and body segment properties of extinct species using whole articulated skeletons.
Feral Pigeons have colonised all corners of the Earth, having developed a close association with humans and their activities. The wild ancestor of the Feral Pigeon, the Rock Dove, is a species of rocky habitats, nesting typically on cliff ledges and at the entrance to large caves. This habit would have brought them into close contact with cave-dwelling humans, a relationship usually linked to the development of dwellings in the Neolithic. We show that the association between humans and Rock Doves is an ancient one with its roots in the Palaeolithic and predates the arrival of modern humans into Europe. At Gorham’s Cave, Gibraltar, the Neanderthals exploited Rock Doves for food for a period of over 40 thousand years, the earliest evidence dating to at least 67 thousand years ago. We show that the exploitation was not casual or sporadic, having found repeated evidence of the practice in different, widely spaced, temporal contexts within the cave. Our results point to hitherto unappreciated capacities of the Neanderthals to exploit birds as food resources on a regular basis. More so, they were practising it long before the arrival of modern humans and had therefore invented it independently.
Pigeons and doves (Columbiformes) are one of the oldest and most diverse extant lineages of birds. However, the nature and timing of the group’s evolutionary radiation remains poorly resolved, despite recent advances in DNA sequencing and assembly and the growing database of pigeon mitochondrial genomes. One challenge has been to generate comparative data from the large number of extinct pigeon lineages, some of which are morphologically unique and therefore difficult to place in a phylogenetic context.
The dodo (Raphus cucullatus) might be the most enigmatic bird of all times. It is, therefore, highly remarkable that no consensus has yet been reached on its body mass; previous scientific estimates of its mass vary by more than 100%. Until now, the vast amount of bones stored at the Natural History Museum in Mauritius has not yet been studied morphometrically nor in relation to body mass. Here, a new estimate of the dodo’s mass is presented based on the largest sample of dodo femora ever measured (n = 174). In order to do this, we have used the regression method and chosen our variables based on biological, mathematical and physical arguments. The results indicate that the mean mass of the dodo was circa 12 kg, which is approximately five times as heavy as the largest living Columbidae (pigeons and doves), the clade to which the dodo belongs.
The closely related and extinct Dodo (Raphus cucullatus) and Rodrigues Solitaire (Pezophaps solitaria), both in the subfamily Raphinae, are members of a clade of morphologically very diverse pigeons. Genetic analyses have revealed that the Nicobar Pigeon (Caloenas nicobarica) is the closest living relative of these birds, thereby highlighting their ancestors' remarkable migration and morphological evolution. The Spotted Green Pigeon (Caloenas maculata) was described in 1783 and showed some similarities to the Nicobar Pigeon. Soon however the taxon fell into obscurity, as it was regarded as simply an abnormal form of the Nicobar Pigeon. The relationship between both taxa has occasionally been questioned, leading some ornithologists to suggest that the two may in fact be different taxa. Today only one of the original two specimens survives and nothing is known about the origin of the taxon. Due to its potential close relationship, the Spotted Green Pigeon may hold clues to the historical migration, isolation and morphological evolution of the Dodo and its kindred.
Alice in Wonderland Syndrome was originally coined by Dr. John Todd in 1955. The syndrome is named after the sensations experienced by the character Alice in Lewis Carroll’s novel Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Alice in Wonderland Syndrome consists of metamorphopsia (seeing something in a distorted fashion), bizarre distortions of their body image, and bizarre perceptual distortions of form, size, movement or color. Additionally, patients with Alice in Wonderland Syndrome can experience auditory hallucinations and changes in their perception of time. Currently, there is no known specific cause of Alice in Wonderland Syndrome. However, theories point to infections such as the Epstein-Barr virus, medications such as topiramate and associated migraines. Neuroimaging studies have revealed brain regions involved with the manifestation of symptoms. These include the temporo-parietal junction within the temporal lobe and the visual pathway, specifically the occipital lobe. There are no current treatments for Alice in Wonderland Syndrome. Further research is needed to find better treatments for Alice in Wonderland Syndrome and to elucidate the exact cause or causes of Alice in Wonderland Syndrome.
This paper explores the assimilation of the flightless dodo into early modern natural history. The dodo was first described by Dutch sailors landing on Mauritius in 1598, and became extinct in the 1680s or 1690s. Despite this brief period of encounter, the bird was a popular subject in natural-history works and a range of other genres. The dodo will be used here as a counterexample to the historical narratives of taxonomic crisis and abrupt shifts in natural history caused by exotic creatures coming to Europe. Though this bird had a bizarre form, early modern naturalists integrated the dodo and other flightless birds through several levels of conceptual categorization, including the geographical, morphological and symbolic. Naturalists such as Charles L'Ecluse produced a set of typical descriptive tropes that helped make up the European dodo. These long-lived images were used for a variety of symbolic purposes, demonstrated by the depiction of the Dutch East India enterprise in Willem Piso’s 1658 publication. The case of the dodo shows that, far from there being a dramatic shift away from emblematics in the seventeenth century, the implicit symbolic roles attributed to exotic beasts by naturalists constructing them from scant information and specimens remained integral to natural history.
Avian trichomonosis is known as a widespread disease in columbids and passerines, and recent findings have highlighted the pathogenic character of some lineages found in wild birds. Trichomonosis can affect wild bird populations including endangered species, as has been shown for Mauritian pink pigeons Nesoenas mayeri in Mauritius and suggested for European turtle doves Streptopelia turtur in the UK. However, the disease trichomonosis is caused only by pathogenic lineages of the parasite Trichomonas gallinae. Therefore, understanding the prevalence and distribution of both potentially pathogenic and non-pathogenic T. gallinae lineages in turtle doves and other columbids across Europe is relevant to estimate the potential impact of the disease on a continental scale.
The main objective of this study was to detect the presence of carbapenemase-encoding genes in stool samples of urban pigeons.