How Invasive Species Led to Dodo Bird Extinction

An enlightening Ted-Ed lesson that was written by Dr. Leon Claessens and directed by Denys Spolitak, explains how the arrival of humans and other invasive species caused the dodo bird to become extinct.

Uncover the most common misperceptions about dodos, and find out the truth of how the flightless birds actually went extinct.

The dodo is historically thought of as dumb; however, these birds were perfectly suited to their environment, as their stout bodies allowed them to survive all sorts of extreme weather events on the volcanic island of Mauritius. They also became flightless as over 800 kilometers of water kept natural predators at bay.

About 8 million years ago, an underwater volcano formed another island on the chain, which would come to be known as Mauritius. Some of the birds populated this new island, too, and down the line, dodos emerged as a distinct species. They shared Mauritius with bats, lizards, giant tortoises, and other birds. The closest large predators were held back by about 800 kilometers of ocean, so getting murdered was basically a non-issue.

Dodo Bird Extinction

Life was perfect for the dodo until Dutch sailors came on shore in 1598, bringing with them a variety of different animals, all of whom were invasive species. Sadly, the dodo and other Mauritian animals did not know how to defend themselves after living without predators for so long.

Mauritian animals hadn’t evolved to fear being hunted by humans, so they were an easy catch. …The Dutch sailors …brought macaques that were probably pets. They released goats and pigs on the island to establish food sources. …sailors also inadvertently introduced rats. … all of them competed with dodos for resources.

Sadly, the rest is history for the dodo, a strong, clever bird whose eradication was through no fault of their own.

All in all, the dodo was, in fact, a survivor that withstood major natural disasters and thrived on its island home. It simply wasn’t prepared for a sudden onslaught of invasive species. …In the aftermath, perhaps it was easier to declare the dodo’s extinction the result of its personal failing than to admit it was a human one.

Lori Dorn
Lori Dorn

Lori is a Laughing Squid Contributing Editor based in New York City who has been writing blog posts for over a decade. She also enjoys making jewelry, playing guitar, taking photos and mixing craft cocktails.