Washington D.C.: Famous for their complete lack of a survival instinct, the now-extinct Dodos, whose name has entered popular culture as a symbol of stupidity, might have been quite intelligent, according to a new research.
The Stony Brook University work finds that the overall size of the dodo's brain in relation to its body size was on par with its closest living relatives: pigeons, birds whose ability to be trained implies a moderate level of intelligence.
The researchers also discovered that the dodo had an enlarged olfactory bulb, the part of the brain responsible for smelling, an uncharacteristic trait for birds, which usually concentrate their brainpower into eyesight.
The dodo (Raphus cucullatus) was a large, flightless bird that lived on the island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean. They were last seen in 1662.
Lead author Eugenia Gold said that 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. 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 that's why they have been given this reputation of being dumb.
To examine the brain of the dodo, Gold tracked down a well-preserved skull from the collections of the Natural History Museum, London, and imaged it there with high-resolution computed tomography (CT) scanning.
Gold noted that it's not impressively large or impressively small, it's exactly the size you would predict it to be for its body size, adding, "So if you take brain size as a proxy for intelligence, dodos probably had a similar intelligence level to pigeons. Of course, there's more to intelligence than just overall brain size, but this gives us a basic measure."
The study is published in the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society.