It’s well known that the Oxford Dodo is the most complete set of fossils left of a dodo. The specimen consists of a mummified head and foot, and it’s the only dodo with soft tissue that can be used for DNA analysis. The specimen was preserved at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History. Now scientists at the University of Warwick and Oxford University have revealed what caused the death of the Oxford Dodo.
According to scientists who analyzed the specimen for three years, the Oxford Dodo died after being shot in the back of its head and neck with a shotgun. Surprisingly, the shot failed to penetrate the bird’s thick skull. The dodo in question has historical significance. Lewis Carroll wrote about it in his book Alice in Wonderland, and famous illustrator John Tenniel added his illustrations of the bird, reports BBC News.
Scientists loaded the Oxford Dodo into a micro-CT scanner to study it. Since the bird was dead, they were able to use better resolution and higher power than if the bird was alive. The micro-CT scans showed fleck marks in the bird’s neck and the back of the head. After taking a closer look, researchers found that the flecks were tiny lead pellets. It means someone had killed the flightless bird from behind.
Paul Smith, the director of the Oxford University Museum of Natural History, said the finding of the study came as a big surprise. For decades, curators at the museum believed that the bird died of disease or ill-treatment. According to scientists, the lead pellets were typically used during the 17th century to hunt wildfowl.
Smith told LiveScience that the Oxford Dodo specimen was the same bird that was brought to the UK in 1638 when it was still alive. It would perform in London curiosity shows, and people would pay to see it. However, the curiosity show dodo was never shot. So, it raises serious questions about when and where the Oxford Dodo came from. But the even bigger question is who killed this dodo? Researchers plan to analyze the lead shot pellets to figure out where it was mined.
Mark Williams of the University of Warwick said it was still unclear where the flightless bird was shot. Was it shot in Mauritius before being brought to the UK? Or was it shot in the UK itself? Or was it shot for food on a ship?
Dodos went extinct nearly 350 years ago. They were native to Mauritius, an island in the Indian Ocean. Dutch explorers found the bird in 1598. The dodos went extinct in 1662 after decades of hunting by hungry sailors, habitat loss, and invasive rats, cats, and pigs that would eat their eggs and younglings. Today, the closest living relative of the Oxford Dodo is the Nicobar pigeon.
According to BBC, the dodos were not as plump as they are believed to be. Scientists were studying the Oxford Dodo specimen to understand what the birds ate and how they fed. It seems like the animal is finally getting much-deserved attention roughly 350 years after its extinction.