The now extinct dodos have been given this reputation of being dumb. In modern culture, they have become an example of stupidity, oddity, obsolescence, and extinction. But new research suggests that the dodo birds were actually quite smart. The size of its brain in relation to its body size was similar to that of pigeons, that are considered moderately intelligent.
Dodos had an enlarged olfactory bulb
Findings of the study were published in the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society. Researchers who analyzed a preserved dodo skull also found that the bird had an enlarged olfactory bulb, an uncharacteristic trait of birds. The olfactory bulb is part of the brain responsible for smelling. Most birds depend on eyesight rather than smell to navigate through their world, so they tend to have bigger optic lobes than olfactory bulbs. Since dodos were ground-dwellers, they might have relied on smell to find their food.
Dodos were large, flightless birds that lived on the Mauritius island in the Indian Ocean. They went extinct in 1662 due to human activity. Eugenia Gold, the lead author of the study and an instructor in the department of anatomical sciences at the Stony Brook University, said the island was discovered in the 1500s. Dodos living there had no fear of humans. The birds were herded onto boats and used as fresh meat. Dodos disappeared in less than 100 years after the arrival of humans on the island.
The brain to body size ratio gives us a basic idea
Several aspects of the dodo’s biology are still unknown because the specimens are extremely rare. To study the brain of the dodo, Eugenia Gold used a preserved skull from the collections of London-based Natural History Museum. Scientists imaged it with high-resolution computer tomography (CT) scanning. They also scanned seven species of pigeons. It helped them build virtual brain endocasts to determine the brain size as well as the size of different structures.
While comparing the size of the dodos’ brains to their body sizes, scientists found that the dodo was “right on the line.” “It’s exactly the size you would predict it to be for its body size,” said Eugenia Gold. Of course, there is more to intelligence than just brain size, but this gives us a basic measure.