July 4th, 2006

Chris Keeley

Everyone knows about the death of the dodo, but no one knows much about its life.

The dodo's closest relative was the solitaire, another extinct flightless bird that lived only on the nearby island of Rodrigues.

Image courtesy of Errol Fuller

Newfound Island Graveyard May Yield Clues to Dodo Life of Long Ago

Everyone knows about the death of the dodo, but no one knows much about its life.

The stocky flightless bird became extinct at the end of the 1600's, less than two centuries after European explorers discovered its home, the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius. Beyond passing descriptions, little evidence of the bird has survived — a preserved skin here, an isolated leg bone there.

Over the last few weeks, however, a team of scientists has been exploring a trove of dodo fossils that may be as old as 3,000 years. Along with the dodos, the scientists have found fossils of other species of birds, reptiles, bats and numerous plants.

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Chris Keeley

the result of natural disaster wiping out a significant part of the Dodo-ecotope,

Scientists say dodos killed by natural disaster
Mon Jul 3, 2006 3:47 PM BST

By Tim Cocks

PORT LOUIS (Reuters) - Scientists who unearthed a mass dodo grave in Mauritius say they have found evidence showing the birds were killed by a natural disaster long before humans arrived on the Indian Ocean island.

Most theories about how the dodo became extinct blame early settlers who found the plump flightless bird on the Indian Ocean island in the 16th century and hunted it relentlessly.

"There are indications that the fossil-rich layer represents the result of natural disaster wiping out a significant part of the Dodo-ecotope," a statement by the researchers said.

While the latest find does not disprove the human theory, the scientists are convinced there was a mass dodo death, possibly caused by a cyclone or flood, pre-dating the arrival of humans, Christian Foo Kune, owner of the site, told Reuters.

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