The dodo, perhaps the most famous animal to have gone extinct in human history, has been understood from a whole new perspective. Generally speaking the bird was described as a somewhat overweight, clumsy and tottering, apparently so defenseless that it went extinct because of human predation. The last known sighting of this strange bird is said to have been in 1662.
However with the dawn of 3D laser scanning technology, scientists are now able to thoroughly examine the skeletons of the dodo, providing insights on the anatomy and lifestyle of the bird and unraveling some of its mysteries. The researchers used a laser scanner to come up with a three-dimensional digital model of the bird. They also scanned a partially composite skeleton that Etienne Thirioux, a barber and amateur naturalist, created near Le Pouce Mountain in Mauritius between 1899 and 1917. The second skeleton is housed at the Durban Museum of Natural Science in South Africa and is made up of many bones that belonged to a single bird.
Using a 3D laser, paleontologists from the College of Holy Cross in Massachusetts made the first ever full 3-D dodo scans. The team presented the scans for the first time Thursday at the Society for Vertebrate Archaeology’s annual conference in Berlin.
According to the scans, dodos had kneecaps, which were previously unknown structures within the dodo. Leon Claessens, lead author on the scanning mission, told Live Science that information gleaned from the scans will help provide insight into how the bird moved. The team will also look at the bird’s large jaw in order to better understand how it worked and what type of prey it caught.
“The 3-D laser surface scans we made of the fragile Thirioux dodo skeletons enable us to reconstruct how the dodo walked, moved, and lived to a level of detail that has never been possible before,” Claessens said in a statement. “We discovered that the anatomy of the dodo we were looking at was not previously described in detail,” Claessens said. “There were bones of the dodo that were just unknown to science until now.”
When combining this more complete skeleton with data from previous studies regarding other statistics like dodo population, scientists now have new ideas for exploring evolution in a species whose entire existence was cut very short after the appearance of humans.
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