A review of the dodo and its ecosystem: Insights from a vertebrate concentration lagerstätte in Mauritius
de Louw, P.G.B.
de Boer, E.J.
de Vos, J.
van der Sluis, L.G.
van Heteren, A.H.
van der Plicht, J.H.
The dodo Raphus cucullatus Linnaeus, 1758, an extinct and flightless, giant pigeon endemic to Mauritius, has fascinated people since its discovery, yet has remained surprisingly poorly known. Until the mid-19th century, almost all that was known about the dodo was based on illustrations and written accounts by 17th century mariners, often of questionable accuracy. Furthermore, only a few fragmentary remains of dodos collected prior to the bird’s extinction exist. Our understanding of the dodo’s anatomy was substantially enhanced by the discovery in 1865 of subfossil bones in a marsh called the Mare aux Songes, situated in southeastern Mauritius. However, no contextual information was recorded during early excavation efforts, and the majority of excavated material comprised larger dodo bones, almost all of which were unassociated. Here we present a modern interdisciplinary analysis of the Mare aux Songes, a 4200-year-old multitaxic vertebrate concentration Lagerstätte. Our analysis of the deposits at this site provides the first detailed overview of the ecosystem inhabited by the dodo. The interplay of climatic and geological conditions led to the exceptional preservation of the animal and associated plant remains at the Mare aux Songes and provides a window into the past ecosystem of Mauritius. This interdisciplinary research approach provides an ecological framework for the dodo, complementing insights on its anatomy derived from the only associated dodo skeletons known, both of which were collected by Etienne Thirioux and are the primary subject of this memoir. © 2015 by the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology.
To reference this document use:
GM - Geomodelling
ELSS - Earth, Life and Social Sciences
Geological Survey Netherlands
Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, 35, 3-20
Funding details: DIF, Diabetes Institutes Foundation Funding details: ALW 819.01.009, NWO, Nederlandse Organisatie voor Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek Funding details: BP-B-00174, Generalitat de Catalunya Funding details: NHM, Natural History Museum Funding details: DBI 0743327, NSF, National Science Foundation Funding text: We thank co-discoverers E. Lenting and C. Foo Kune for their invaluable support. We further thank M.L. Foo Kune, P. La Hausse de la Louvière, S. Saumtally, O. Griffiths, A. Gill, R. Prŷs-Jones, G. Middleton, P. Moree, I. Prins, M.R. Rijsdijk, M. van der Meer, M. Schilthuizen, V. Tatayah, the volunteers of the Mauritian Wildlife Fund, the staff and technicians of the Natural History Museum of Mauritius, and the staff and technicians of OMNICANE Mon Tresor Team for their invaluable support. J. P.H. thanks R. Allain and C. Sagne (MNHN), S. Chapman (NHMUK), M. Brooke and M. Lowe (UMZC), and M. Nowak-Kemp (OUMNH) for access to materials in their care. Field work and research was funded and supported by Omnicane, TNO—the Geological Survey of The Netherlands, the Treub Foundation for Research in the Tropics, World Wildlife Fund—The Netherlands, Deltares, Stichting Dodo Research, The Hague, Mauritius Museums Council, Hollandia Archaeology, Taylor Smith Group (Mauritius), Air Mauritius, Mauritius Sugar Industry Research Institute, Royal Society of Arts & Sciences of Mauritius, Mauritius Wildlife Foundation, and the Naturalis Biodiversity Center. Support for J.P.H. was provided by the Percy Sladen Centenary Fund, DIF, and Special Funds (Natural History Museum, London). E.J.d.B.’s work was carried out with the financial support from The Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (project number ALW 819.01.009). Support for L.C. was provided by the National Science Foundation (Aves 3D project, DBI 0743327) and a College of the Holy Cross Research and Publication grant. H.J.M.M. received support from the Treub Foundation for Research in the Tropics, the Spanish Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad (CGL2011-28681), and the Generalitat de Catalunya (BP-B-00174 to H.J.M.M.). T.J.J.V. was funded by The Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (project number ALW 819.01.008) and SYNTHESYS Synthesis of Systematic Resources (project numbers BE-TAF-2974, GB-TAF-4289 and GBTAF-5235). We appreciate the constructive and critical feedback by T. Worthy, G. Dyke, and J. Parish.