‘Modern’ lifestyle made dodos look like a fat lazy bird

Some days back it was in the news that there are now more obese people in the world than underweight and that by 2030 some countries might have half of its adults obese. The main causes: bad eating and lack of exercise. These two reasons triggered the largest pigeon that ever existed on Earth to be known as stupid, lazy, fat…..

A painting of a dodo made in 1626 by R Savery, given to British Museum after 1750
A painting of a dodo made in 1626 by R Savery, given to British Museum after 1750

But the truth is far from this. The dodo was an athletic bird, with strong limbs to allow them to run in the dense forests of its homeland. Dodos also had knee caps as us that also supported its running. Yes, the dodo was a runner! As there was little need to flight – there were no predator to eat dodos – its wings reduced in size becoming useful for balance when running. Dodo was a bird perfectly adapted to its environment. You can check yourself the amazing 3-D dodo skeleton anatomy.

Why then the story goes that the dodo was a stupid, lazy, fat bird? Well, imagine if you put someone used to run and eating healthy foods in a cage with a diet of fatty biscuits while traveling months to reach Europe. Easy to imagine that the poor soul would became fat and loose part of its ability for run. The fat dodos that reach Europe and Asia were the ones that were painted by artists. So a myth was created. But we now know that you know that dodos were well-built pigeons!

Claessens L.P.A.M., Meijer H.J.M., Hume, J.P., and Rijsdijk K.F. (2015) Anatomy of the Dodo (Raphus cucullatus L., 1758): An Osteological Study of the Thirioux Specimens. Society of Vertebrate Paleontology Memoir 15. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 35 (6, Supplement). Online March 2016