X-ray scans reveal that dodo's relative brain size was similar to pigeons, likely had enhanced sense of smell
Date:February 23, 2016
Source:American Museum of Natural History
New research suggests that the dodo, an extinct bird whose name has entered popular culture as a symbol of stupidity, was actually fairly smart. The work, published today in the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, finds that the overall size of the dodo's brain in relation to its body size was on par with its closest living relatives: pigeons--birds whose ability to be trained implies a moderate level of intelligence. The researchers also discovered that the dodo had an enlarged olfactory bulb -- the part of the brain responsible for smelling -- an uncharacteristic trait for birds, which usually concentrate their brainpower into eyesight.
The dodo (Raphus cucullatus) was a large, flightless bird that lived on the island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean. They were last seen in 1662.
"When the island was discovered in the late 1500s, the dodos living there had no fear of humans and they were herded onto boats and used as fresh meat for sailors," said Eugenia Gold, the lead author of the paper, a research associate and recent graduate of the American Museum of Natural History's Richard Gilder Graduate School, and an instructor in the Department of Anatomical Sciences at Stony Brook University. "Because of that behavior and invasive species that were introduced to the island, they disappeared in less than 100 years after humans arrived. Today, they are almost exclusively known for becoming extinct, and I think that's why we've given them this reputation of being dumb."