Photo by bazzadaramblerimage, Oxford University Museum of Natural History
13 August 2016
Raphus the Pigeon
Exploring directions for this week over the last twenty-four hours (I was out all day yesterday and will post twice today to make up for it) I found a glaring hole in our discussions. Recently extinct species are not often discussed her, though we have made a number of exceptions and will continue to do so as we continue to explore fossil taxa. One recently extinct species that I noticed we have not discussed here is known less by its scientific name, Raphus cucullatus, than by its common English name, the Dodo. Essentially a large flightless pigeon, Raphus was endemic to the island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean. As a flightless bird unaware of the dangers posed to it by newly arrived humans, Raphus was easily hunted by European explorers especially the Dutch who owned the island, restocking their ships during the age of sail. Raphus is the most recently extinct animal we have discussed and first hand accounts dating between 1662 and 1688 narrow down the actual dates of extinction fairly well. Because birds are dinosaurs, we are not technically straying from the name of the site; however, folks only wanting to read about dinosaurs should stick with us despite our avian slant this week!