Raphus Cucullatus - Dodo Bird
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Rebuilding the Dodo from it's DNA
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. Dodo Articles

Raphus cucullatues Data Sheet

Images of the Dodo

Discovery provides insight into the flight of the Dodo

DNA yields dodo family secrets

DNA - Science could rebuild dead DODO

Lean, mean - but still dead as a dodo

Dodo was really a pigeon


Old Print of a Dodo
Head of the Dodo (Oxford University Museum)
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DNA Science could rebuild dead DODO

by Steve Farrar - Science correspondent

Source :     
The Sunday Times 21 March 1999

Scientists are to extract DNA from a dodo for the first time, raising the prospect that the animal whose name is synonymous with extinction could be resurrected. British experts will recover fragments of genetic material from a preserved head and foot kept in Oxford University's Museum of Natural History. The research will identify the closest living relative and may pave the way to the recreation of the species.

Ecologists, however, have warned that bringing back an animal resembling the dodo might persuade the public that there is no longer any need to protect endangered species, as any creatures wiped out by man could be recreated. A team of Oxford University experts, led by Dr Alan Cooper, has already started to build the dodo's family tree by testing the DNA of African and Indian Ocean pigeons, to which it is thought to be related.

While genetic material from the extinct bird has probably deteriorated into millions of fragments, Cooper is confident that modern methods will reveal enough to allow it to be compared with living species. This will show the experts where it fits into the familty tree. "If we can find out what the dodo's closest living relative is, it is going to tell us a lot about where the dodo came from and how it evolved," said Cooper.

Likely candidates include the Victoria crown pigeon from New Guinea and the saw-billed pigeon, both very large birds that spend their lives on the ground and rarely fly. It could then be possible to work out the dodo's unique genes, said Dr Charlie Shaw, an expert in ancient DNA at Durham University. Once scientists have worked out the key genes that made the dodo unique, they could then create genetically engineered DNA to put into the nucleus of an egg and hatch a dodo-like bird using one of the pigeons identified by Cooper's survey. It would, however, be almost impossible to recreate a perfect dodo, because its genetic code, which survives only in tiny fragments, could never be worked out to a sufficiently high degree of accuracy, said Dr Ken Joysey, a palaeontologist at Cambridge University. "You only need to get a little bit wrong to get a non-viable animal - a single mistake could be lethal," he said.

An alternative might be to use selective breeding to create a bird resembling a dodo. This would involve taking its closest living relatives, inter-breeding them and selecting the young that most exhibited the traits of a dodo. Dr Eric Harley, a scientist at the University of Cape Town in South Africa, is using the same method to try to resurrect the quagga, a type of African horse wiped out by hunters 100 years ago, by selectively breeding the closely related plains zebras that still carry the quagga's genes.

The task would be more difficult with the dodo because, unlike the quagga, many of its genes have been lost. "With a lot of time and a lot of breeding you could probably get animals remarkably dodo-like, but what would be the point?" he said.

Experts believe the dodo's ancestors flew to Mauritius - an Indian Ocean island the size of Sussex - within the last million years, and in the absence of predators evolved into large, flightless animals that foraged for food on the forest floor. The birds were first seen by Europeans when Dutch sailors arrived in 1598. They left the dodo alone as it was virtually inedible. However, it is believed the dogs, pigs, rats and monkeys brought in their ships hunted adult birds down, raided their nests for eggs and out-competed them for food.

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. Extinct Birds

Blue Pigeon
Broad-billed Parrot
Grey Parrot
Mascarene Coot
Mauritian Duck
Mauritius Owl
Mascarene Swan
Mauritius Night Heron
Red Rail
Bourbon Crested Starling

Rodrigues Solitaire
Rodrigues Night Heron
Rodrigues Little Owl
Rodrigues Owl
Newton's Parakeet
Rodrigues Parrot
Rodrigues Pigeon
Rodrigues Rail
Rodrigues Starling

Dodo foot
Dodo skeleton
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