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The dodo, Raphus cucullatus, was a turkey-sized flightless bird that went extinct around 1681. This bird lived in rainforests on the island of Mauritius (pronounced mohr-RIH-shus) in the Indian Ocean (near the island of Madagascar, off the southeastern coast of Africa).

Anatomy: The dodo had a large body, stubby wings, a small, curved tail, short legs, and a large beak. No complete specimens of the dodo were ever preserved; only some examples of the head and feet were saved. It may have weighed up to about 50 pounds (23 kg).

Eggs and Chicks: Females laid a single egg in each clutch (a set of eggs laid in one nesting period). The nest was located on the ground (and quite vulnerable to predators).

Diet: The dodo ate ripe fruit that fell to the ground, eating the fruit of the Calvaria major tree (which is often called the dodo tree). This long-living tree is now in danger of extinction since it depended on the dodo for its own reproduction; its seed can only germinate (sprout) after going through the digestive system of the dodo (the seed has a very thick coating). Scientists have found that turkeys have a similar digestive system to that of the dodo, and can stand in for the dodo in processing the seeds, perhaps saving the dodo tree.

Predators: On its native island of Mauritius, there were no large mammals to prey on the dodo. People introduced mammals, including pigs, monkeys, and rats, which ate the dodo's eggs; people often hunted and ate the dodo.

Classification: Kingdom Animalia (animals), phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata (vertebrates), class Aves (birds), order Columbiformes (pigeons, etc.), family Raphidae, genus Raphus, species R. cucullatus.

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