Extinct birds, lecture


Great auk and dodo bones, Naturalis

On 25 May 2014, in Naturalis museum in Leiden, there was a lecture about extinct birds. It was by René Dekker. He had brought some rare stuffed birds, usually invisible for the public because exposure to light might damage them. His material at the lecture included the great auk and dodo bones on this photo.

All photos of this blog post are mobile phone camera photos.

The museum has 37 million objects: stuffed animals, rocks, plants, etc. Some of them are very rare extinct bird specimens.

Many of the bird species which became extinct used to live on islands. Often, island birds eventually lost much or all of the ability to fly, as there were often no or few predators on the islands.

For example, the closest relative of the now extinct dodo is today’s Nicobar pigeon. Nicobar pigeon-like ancestors of the dodo flew from Asia to Mauritius island. There they gradually lost their ability of flight. A drought in Mauritius about 4,000 year ago had already been a disaster for dodos. When about 1600 sailors arrived on Mauritius, bringing rats, cats and dogs, that meant soon the end for these flightless birds.

The dodo at Naturalis museum is not real. It is a reconstruction with rhea feathers. There are no dodo feathers left. An Oxford museum has the only bit of dodo skin left. Other museums, including Naturalis, do have bones.

Naturalis has the only Tahiti sandpiper specimen, collected in 1774 during a Captain Cook expedition.

And it has a great auk: there are 80 museum specimens left in the world; two of them in Naturalis.

Other rare extinct birds in the collection: Cuban macaw; Labrador duck; Himalayan quail; and Hawaiian rail.

Passenger pigeon, Naturalis

Another species present at Naturalis is the passenger pigeon. Not a flightless species. Not an island species. Not a rare species: millions used to live in North america. However, even a species like that was exterminated by humans.

More species: Carolina parakeet, formerly in the USA; paradise parrot, formerly in Australia; Delalande’s coua, formerly in Madagascar.

Also from Madagascar, Naturalis has bones of extinct elephant birds. These birds, and their bones, were so big that museum people wrongly put them among elephant bones. The mistake was discovered later.

There are 48 Javanese lapwings at Naturalis, and only two elsewhere in the world.

Passenger pigeon and pink-headed duck, Naturalis

The collection also includes this pink-headed duck.

Pink-headed duck, Naturalis

And a glaucous macaw; probably extinct.

And an ivory-billed woodpecker; also probably extinct.

Spix’s macaw is probably extinct in the wild, but alive in captivity.

Polynesian megapode, Naturalis

René Dekker concluded his lecture with the Polynesian megapode; a non-extinct species, which he himself had helped to prevent from becoming extinct. For many years, these birds were restricted to Niuafo’ou island. That made the birds vulnerable. So, fifty eggs were transported to Fonualei island. Fonualei is a volcanic island, with hot soil, the right temperature for megapode eggs. Being megapodes, the chicks were able to hatch and survive there without parental care. So, a few years later, over 300 megapodes lived on Fonualei.

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New Mauritius dodo expedition


This is video about the dodo museum in Mauritius.

Translated from the Dutch dodo expedion blog:

From August 5 to August 22, the Dodo Research Team will be back, digging in the Mare aux Songes marsh in Mauritius. The aim is to investigate what was the effect of extreme climate change on the dodo and other animals and plants of the island. It turned out that the animals in the mass grave suddenly died around 4000 years ago. We think that this has to do with an extreme drought in Mauritius then. This is particularly relevant because current models predict extreme droughts in the region as well.

See also here.

Mauritius kestrel: A conservation success story: here.

Mating call of Mauritian tortoise small price to pay for conservation of forest: here.

Dodo research on Mauritius starts again


This video says about itself:

In this episode we travel to Mauritius to meet the endangered Pink pigeon.

From the Dodo Expedition Weblog 2009:

For the fourth time the international dodo research team will depart to Mauritius.

In this (Dutch) weblog the expedition members share their experiences about working in the mud in the Mare aux Songes. In October last year the team found for the first time bones smaller than one millimeter. Since then the Mare aux Songes dodo collection is worlds most important dodo collection! The researchers are hoping to expand this collection with more discoveries.

But there is more: this year the team will for the first time dig in the dodo-polder itself. Last year we investigated 68 patato bags with fossil soil that was left over from the 2007 expedition, this year we will investigate exactly how the bones are laying in the ground. The way the bones are situated in the ground will tell us more on how the dodos died.

Therefore the team will – layer after layer – dig and investigate the dodo-polder. Our biggest wish is of course to find a whole dodo skeleton.

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Dodo research on Mauritius starting again


This video is about a Night Heron on giant lilypads in Mauritius.

The dodo research at the Mare aux Songes in Mauritius is starting again.

See here.

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Dodo skeleton discovered in Mauritius


Video of pencil sketch of the long gone dodo (sped up).

From Reuters:

Scientists fly into raptures over flightless Fred

Fri Jun 29, 2007 11:23AM EDT

By Ed Harris

BOIS CHERI, Mauritius – The remains of a dodo found in a cave beneath bamboo and tea plantations in Mauritius offer the best chance yet to learn about the extinct flightless bird, a scientist said on Friday.

The discovery was made earlier this month in the Mauritian highlands but the location was kept secret until the recovery of the skeleton, nicknamed “Fred”, was completed on Friday. Four men guarded the site overnight.

Julian Hume, a paleontologist at Britain’s Natural History Museum, told Reuters the remains were likely to yield excellent DNA and other vital clues, because they were found intact, in isolation, and in a cave.

“The geneticists who want to get their hands on this will be skipping down the street,” he said, after bringing the last of the remains to the surface.

Given the nickname “Fred” after the 65-year-old who found them, the remains should provide the first decent specimens of dodo DNA, he said.

“Then you can work out how it actually got to Mauritius, because it must have originally flown here before evolving into flightlessness and the big, fat bird that we know,” he said.

“We know it’s a giant pigeon,” he added.

It the first discovery of dodo remains away from the coastal regions, suggesting that the bird, extinct since the 17th century, lived all over the Indian Ocean island, he said.

Hume said the dodo was almost certainly finished off by animals introduced by Europeans about 400 years ago. Theories that it was hunted to extinction by the Dutch were “total nonsense”, he said, adding that the remains were highly fragile.

“If you try and pick it up, it just falls apart,” he said. “You won’t see a mounted, beautiful thing from this.

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