Aug
20
2007

Dodo DNA, and what I would do with it

The dodo bird, awaiting the peak of irony: You seriously don't think it's a funny idea?  (photo by veracious jess on flickr.com)
The dodo bird, awaiting the peak of irony: You seriously don't think it's a funny idea? (photo by veracious jess on flickr.com)
My most conceptual of jokes is one step closer to becoming a reality.

Biologists searching for cockroaches on the island of Mauritius have recently uncovered the skeleton of a dodo bird in a highland cave. Mauritius is, of course, a small island in the Indian Ocean, former home to French corsairs, and dodos are, of course, extinct. About three feet tall and flightless, the birds were wiped out shortly after European contact with the island (they laid their eggs on the ground, making them easy prey for the newly introduced rats and pigs).

Although the skeleton, nicknamed “Fred” after one of its discoverers, is fragile and badly decomposed, it may be the most important dodo find yet – scientists are hopeful that they will be able to extract DNA from the bones. The biologists think that Fred may have entered the cave looking for shelter from one of the island’s frequent cyclones and then fell into a hole from which he was unable to climb out again (kind of a heartbreaking short story, actually). The “stable temperature and dry to slightly humid environment” of the cave preserved the skeleton in such a way that extractable DNA may still be present within them.

The dodo is known to be a close relative to pigeons and doves, but much about their genetics remains a mystery to scientists. If DNA can be collected from the bones, it would be invaluable in helping to trace the evolution of the dodo.

In getting back to my original point about the conceptual joke, the dodo DNA might also eventually raise the possibility of cloning the extinct bird. We could re-establish a population of dodos and then… wait for the punch line… wipe them out again!
Ha ha! Get it? Because why would we… Just to… Ha ha! Oh, man, those dumb birds wouldn’t see it coming!

What? Whatever.

An interesting side note from Wikipedia’s Dodo article – the etymology of the word dodo is debated, although some of the possible sources are kind of funny. It could come from the Dutch word “dodaars,” which means “plump arse.” (I don’t use the word “arse,” by the way, that’s all Wikipedia.) The Dutch, however, were known to call it “walghvogel,” the “loathsome bird,” or “nauseating fowl.” Another thought is that it’s related to the Portuguese “duodo,” meaning “fool,” or “crazy.” It could also just come from the dodo’s call, which supposedly sounded like “doo-doo.”

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

eric de la villa's picture
eric de la villa says:

I hope scientists can bring the dodo bird back to life. The dodo deserves a second chance after humans destroyed and introduced other species that ultimately pushed the defenseless bird to extinction.

posted on Wed, 03/26/2008 - 2:00pm
JGordon's picture
JGordon says:

"Defenseless"? This is the bird that lays eggs in your throat, so its chicks can burst out of your living torso. I wouldn't call that "defenseless."

Oh, wait... I'm thinking of Aliens. No, you're right, I think this thing was pretty much a sitting duck (as it were).

posted on Fri, 03/28/2008 - 11:05am

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