Scientists Resurrect the Dodo Bird
Scientists create a 3D digital model of the specimen
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 9, 2014 12:50 PM CST
A rare fragment of a Dodo femur bone is displayed for photographs next to an image of a member of the extinct bird species at Christie's auction house's premises in London.   (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

(Newser) – When it comes to extinct creatures, few are as commonly known as the dodo. But when it comes to the dodo, few facts have been established about how the flightless birds lived. A new study of the bird unlocks some of its mysteries. As a press release explains, there is but a single complete dodo skeleton in existence, one that was found on the island of Mauritius between 1899 and 1917. Other skeletons of the birds are composites, meaning they're formed from the bones of various dodos, making Etienne Thirioux's find remarkable—but one that hadn't been studied. Using it, researchers were able to use 3D lasers to scan the surface of the fragile skeleton and "reconstruct how the dodo walked, moved, and lived to a level of detail that has never been possible before," per lead researcher Leon Claessens.

Claessens notes that the Thirioux skeleton was an even richer source of information than anticipated, as it contains "even the smallest bones, such as the kneecaps, that are usually lost when an animal disintegrates. Several of those bones were previously unknown and have never been described scientifically." What they learned: The dodos weighed as much as 42 pounds, which Bird Watching Daily reports rival today's King Penguin in size. Thanks to the newly found knee and ankle bones, Claessens tells LiveScience the researchers will be able to better determine how the dodo moved by calculating its potential muscle force. They also intend to study the jaw muscles to determine what its diet may have been. Says Claessens, "My best guess is that it was eating tremendously hard seeds, but who knows, maybe it was eating crabs." (Scientists are also trying to "resurrect" the wine King David drank.)