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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 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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