The dodo, a relative of the pigeon, settled on an island named Mauritius millions of years ago.
Because the island housed no predators, the ability to fly had no evolutionary benefit, and the bird eventually became flightless.
Dodos lived in relative peace for over 4 million years. In the 1500s, sailors began using the island just east of Madagascar as a stop on their trade route.
Not long after, the Dutch set up the first human colony, bringing pigs, dogs, rats, and other animals. The animals loved the taste of dodos and their eggs. The flightless birds were easy to catch, and the entire species was wiped out by 1681.
But don’t weep just for the poor dodo. Dozens of other bird species were exterminated when settlers cut down the Mauritius Island forests for sugarcane plantations in the 1800s.
And don’t forget the poor dodo tree, so named because of its interdependence with the bird. The birds ate its fruits, and the tree’s seeds became dependent on passing through the bird’s digestive tract before they could germinate.
Luckily, trees live longer than birds, so more than three centuries later, the dodo tree isn’t extinct yet. But its numbers have dwindled to a handful of ancients, and no new trees have germinated for more than three hundred years.
However, there’s reason to hope. Scientists have discovered that turkey gullets can work nearly as well as dodo gullets in germinating the seeds, so maybe the dodo tree won’t go the way of its feathery namesake after all.