Raphus cucullatus (dodo)

The flightless dodo, Raphus cucullatus, was native to the island of Mauritius, in the south-western Indian Ocean.

On 20 September 1598, a Dutch fleet commanded by Admiral Wybrant van Warwijck found a channel through the reef encircling Mauritius, and initiated the permanent settlement of the island.

Less than a century later, the dodo was extinct, and other species followed rapidly. 

A close relative, Pezophaps solitaria, lived on the nearby island of Rodrigues, but suffered a similar fate to the dodo.

Conservation on Mauritius

The dodo became extinct due to:

  • habitat loss
  • competition from introduced species

Conservation efforts on Mauritius are too late to save the dodo, but captive breeding has dramatically increased the populations of the:

  • pink pigeon
  • echo parakeet
  • Mauritius kestrel

Unfortunately, very little viable habitat remains for these birds to live in, and the eradication of rats, mice, cats and other predators is difficult and rarely successful.

  • Illustration of the dodo from Memoirs on the dodo by Sir Richard Owen, 1866
    Habitat

    Learn about our current understanding of where the dodo lived.

  • A restored skull of Raphus cucullatus in the Natural History Museum, London
    Biology

    Although the dodo is probably the most famous bird in the world, we know very little about its biology. Discover what we do and do not know about the species.

Images

A restored skull of Raphus cucullatus in the Natural History Museum, London

A restored skull of Raphus cucullatus in the Natural History Museum, London.

A plaster cast of the preserved head of Raphus cucullatus

A plaster cast of the preserved head of Raphus cucullatus. The original is in the Oxford University Museum of Natural History.

A plaster cast of the preserved foot of Raphus cucullatus

A plaster cast of the preserved foot of Raphus cucullatus.

Oil painting of Raphus cucullatus, inscribed Roelandt Savery (1626)

Oil painting of Raphus cucullatus, inscribed Roelandt Savery (1626).

Illustration from Memoirs on the dodo by Sir Richard Owen, 1866

Illustration from Memoirs on the dodo by Sir Richard Owen, 1866.

Detail of a terracotta moulding of a dodo in the Waterhouse Building at the Natural History Museum

Detail of a terracotta moulding of a dodo in the Waterhouse Building at the Natural History Museum, London.

About the author

Lorna Steel
Dr Lorna Steel

Curator, Palaeontology Vertebrates Curation Group.

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References

  • Cheke, A, and Hume, J, (2008) Lost Land of the Dodo: An ecological history of Mauritius, Réunion and Rodrigues. T & A D Poyser, London. 464 pp.
  • Fuller, E, (2002) Dodo: from extinction to icon. Collins, London. 180 pp.
  • Grihault, A, (2005) Dodo: the bird behind the legend. IPC Ltd. Mauritius. 171 pp.