The famous dodo specimen held at Oxford University’s museum was lately found to have died from a gun shot in the back of its head, a new study has revealed.
Researchers from Oxford University and the University of Warwick used forensic CT scanning to create a three-dimensional digital replica of the skull of the Oxford dodo, the world’s only dodo specimen that contains soft tissue since its extinction more than 300 years ago.
According to the scanning, the Oxford dodo met a “violent death.”
“We were actually astounded to find when we looked at the scans and close details where there were some mysterious lead pellets buried in the back of its head,” said professor Mark Williams from the University of Warwick.
“We could then identify that the dodo had actually been shot in the back of the head,” said the professor in a video posted on the University of Warwick’s website on Friday.
The latest findings cast doubt on historians’ earlier theory that the Oxford dodo is the remains of a bird kept alive in a 17th-century London townhouse.
“The importance of the Oxford specimen is that it’s the only one that retains any viable DNA. So it’s the only one that we can do molecular analysis on and to work out relationships and potentially in the future to reconstruct the genome of dodos,” said professor Paul Smith, director of the Oxford University Museum of Natural History.
The next step is to conduct a chemical analysis of the lead shot, which may enable researchers to trace the particular ore field where the lead was mined and the country that made the lead shot, said Smith. “We could then determine who killed the dodo.”
First discovered by Dutch sailors in 1598, the dodo was a flightless bird that once lived on the island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean.
However, due to animals like dogs, cats, pigs and rats that were introduced onto the island and destroyed the dodos’ eggs and habitat and, to a lesser extent, due to the impact of hunting, the dodo population declined rapidly, according to the Oxford University Museum of Natural History.
By 1680, the dodo was extinct.