(Credit: Leon Claessens/Mauritius Museums Council)
After the skeletons were scanned in three dimensions, the dodo could walk again (in a virtual environment, at least). In addition to following the dodos' footsteps, the scientists found other traits by digitally combing over the birds' bones. Considering their hardened beaks, munching on crabs or seeds would have posed little problem. Dodos were peaceable birds, too: Lacking a hardened blade of sternum bone found in other pigeons, the long-lost birds were unlikely to duke it out in dodo-dodo conflict, the researchers believe.
These bones are a stark reminder of the human impact on ecosystems. The dodo's path, after it crossed ways with European sailors, was a short one. In the middle of the 1600s, the dodo was a strange new discovery; 70 years later, the birds were gone.
"The history of the dodo provides an important case study of the effects of human disturbance of the ecosystem, from which there is still much to learn that can inform modern conservation efforts for today's endangered animals," said College of the Holy Cross paleontologist Leon Claessens. If you'd like to look at the dodo's legacy in three dimensions, you're in luck - they're publicly available to view as part of a skeletal database.