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Bird Articles from the Science Press

March 18, 2011

An item from Adrian:
The Dodos of the island of Mauritius were flightless birds related to the pigeon and the dove.  They had no natural predators on the island prior to its discovery by explorers in 1505. It built its nest on the ground, and after the arrival of Portuguese explorers and the introduction of animals such as pigs, dogs and rats, the eggs were vulnerable to being preyed upon.

It was thought that the diet of the Dodo consisted mainly of fruit although observers did note they saw the Dodos eating iron and stones.  It is now believed that the rocks eased the dodo’s digestion.

Although this unusual bird suffered extinction in 1681, the story does not stop there. The potential widespread effects of an extinction of a species are just beginning to be understood. It was recently appreciated that a certain type of tree on Mauritius was becoming quite rare and that all of the 13 trees of the species that remain were approximately 300 years old. It has been determined this type of tree lives to be about 300 years old and this means the species will become extinct. It seems awfully coincidental that this tree had stopped reproducing about 300 years ago just about the time that the Dodo became extinct.

It turns out that the Dodo’s diet consisted of the fruit that this tree produced. The seeds of this tree could only become active and grow after they passed through the Dodo’s digestive system. Therefore the Dodo’s extinction has a direct bearing on this tree’s extinction.

And while we’re on the subject of Dodos:
The slimmer, trimmer Dodo; New Caledonian Crows use tools to poke spiders; plus more.
http://www.sciencenews.org/view/generic/id/69650/title/News_in_Brief_Life
From Science News Online 2/09/11.
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American Goldfinchs’ testosterone surges at sight of thistle blooms
Seeing the right flowers in summer temperatures triggers male goldfinches’ reproductive readiness.
http://www.sciencenews.org/view/generic/id/68646/title/Songbirds_testosterone_surges_at_sight_of_thistle_blooms
From Science News Online 1/12/11.
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On Midway Island, 60-year-old Laysan Albatross, “Wisdom,” and her chick survived the Japan Tsunami

http://www.suite101.com/content/oldest-albatross-survives-tsunami-damage-to-midway-atoll-a358474

From Suzan Phillips. Suite101, 3/13/11
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If that piqued your interest in albatrosses, here’s a beautiful essay on these beautiful birds, from Carl Safina
http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2007/12/albatross/safina-text/1

On the presumption that you simply can’t know too much about the albatross.
From National Geographic December 2007
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[Chuck Almdale]

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