Science dismissed the myth of dodos being stupid as one research paper has been published recently in the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society.
Dodos, the long-extinct birds have entered folklore as the not so intelligent birds with rather disproportionate bodies. These somewhat mysterious dwellers of the Mauritius Island have been driven to extinction by the Dutch navigators who first came to those parts of the world. As dodo birds (Raphus cucullatus) weren’t accustomed to human presence, the typically innate sense of fear didn’t exist with them.
As such, dodo birds became an easy prey for the Dutch navigators. By 1662, all dodo birds native to the Mauritius Island were extinct. The flightless bird is only known to researchers from skeletal structures or partial bones as well as the historic accounts of Dutch sailors.
A research team led by Eugenia Gold with the Stony Brook University looked into the popular myth of dodo birds’ less developed intelligence. Surprisingly, science dismissed the myth of dodos being stupid.
Based on one well-preserved skull, the research team comprising scientists from the Natural History Museum of Denmark, the National Museum of Scotland and other colleagues looked at the brain size of dodo birds and the brain’s structure.
It seems dodo birds would have been as intelligent as modern pigeons. The brain of dodo birds might have been small. Nonetheless, it was proportional with the average body size of the flightless birds and it also indicated a surprisingly developed sense of smell.
The skull of one dodo bird was retrieved from the National History Museum, London. The research team conducted a thorough analysis, including CT-scans of the skull. In addition, CT-scans of the skulls of other birds were included in the analysis. These other birds were pigeon species ranging from the commonly known ones to more exotic pigeons.
The CT scans were used to build brain endocasts in order to understand more about the brain size. The brain endocasts were compared with the brain endocast of the Rodrigues solitaire, another extinct bird which was the closest relative of dodo birds.
Speaking of the brain size of the dodo birds, Gold stated:
“It’s not impressively large or impressively small-it’s exactly the size you would predict it to be for its body size. So if you take brain size as a proxy for intelligence, dodos probably had a similar intelligence level to pigeons”.
As a side information, pigeons can recognize as well as remember the faces of humans. In addition, they can be trained and their mathematical skills are outstanding.
Photo Credits: Wikimedia