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Feb 24, 2016 09:57 AM EST

Dodo Birds Were Likely Not the Dummies We Thought They Were


Though the connotation for term "dodo" is associated with stupidity, the animal the word comes from was probably undeserving of such a reputation.

Published in the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, a new study detailed computed tomography scans of an intact dodo bird skull. The researchers found the bird, formally known as Raphus cucullatus, to have a brain size relative to its body on par with modern day pigeons.

While pigeons are not exactly the model of intelligence in the animal kingdom, they do not have the reputation of being all-round dummies. The dodo bird earned its reputation because they would not run from the Dutch settlers that arrived on the island of Mauritius in the 1500s, thus making them easy hunting targets, according to Live Science.

In addition to scanning the dodo bird's skull, the researchers also examined its relative Rodrigues solitaire, a flightless bird that also went extinct due to human invasion of its habitat. They found the dodo to be different from popular depictions, and that they had a keen sense of smell they used for finding food.

"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," study lead author Eugenia Gold, an anatomist at Stony Brook University, said in a press release. "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."

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