(1) dodo n., an extinct flightless bird, once a native of the island of Mauritius. Discovered 1598, extinct by 1681. In the year 1598 AD, Portuguese sailors landing on the shores of the island of Mauritius discovered a previously unknown species of bird, the Dodo. Having been isolated by its island location from contact with humanity, the dodo greeted the new visitors with a child-like innocence.
The sailors mistook the gentle spirit of the dodo, and its lack of fear of the new predators, as stupidity. They dubbed the bird "dodo" (meaning something similar to a simpleton in the Portuguese tongue). Many dodo were killed by the human visitors, and those that survived man had to face the introduced animals. Dogs and pigs soon became feral when introduced to the Mauritian eco-system. By the year 1681, the last dodo had died, and the world was left worse with its passing. he dodo bird, historically, has been viewed as a rather plump bird, weighing approximately 20-23 kilograms.
Grey in colour, the dodo is quite distinct from the solitaire (a relative of the dodo which lived on the island of Reunion.) The dodo had a large, hooked beak, and a plume of white feathers adorned the rear of the dodo. What distinguishes the dodo from many other birds is not just its size, but that it was flightless. Despite its large build, the dodo had small, weak wings which could not lift it into the air. Thus it was easy prey to the Portuguese invaders who would club the bird to death as it approached them seeking friendship. (2) Saber Toothed Cats LONG- AGO CAT Two million years ago, the Earth began to get very cold. The Ice Age had begun.
Then, starting about 35,000 years ago, lots of huge mammals came into being- - creatures such as giant sloths, mammoths, and mastodons. One of their fiercest predators was the saber- toothed cat. Many species (kinds) of cats with long, saber- like teeth lived during the Ice Age. (A saber is a heavy sword with a slightly curved blade.) These animals could be found everywhere except Australia and Antarctica. Scientists used to call these cats "saber- toothed tigers". But the cats were only distant cousins of modern tigers.
In fact, they " re not like any big cat living today. BUILT LIKE A TRUCK Saber- toothed cats weren't as tall or as long as an African lion. But they weighed just as much! Because of their hefty size, these cats couldn't run fast over a long distance.
But no problem- - their weight was great for overpowering big, slow prey such as giant sloths and even baby mastodons and mammoths! The cats' back legs were built for springing. So scientists think the cats hid and waited for prey to come by- - and then pounced. BELLY BUSTERS Lions and many other cats attack prey by biting the back of the prey's neck. But the saber- toothed cats probably grabbed their prey with their powerful forelegs and paws.
Then they pushed or pulled it over and chomped down on its throat or belly (see drawing at right). DAGGERS AND CHOMPERS Some scientists think the cats' 6-inch (15-cm) sabers were as dull as butter knives at their tips. But the scientists also think the cats used them to puncture their prey's thick hides. How? First, a cat's jaws opened super wide.
Then strong muscles in the animal's head, neck, and shoulders rammed the sabers down into the prey. Scientists aren't sure if the cats killed by stabbing over and over again, or by stabbing and then tearing chunks of flesh from their prey. The cats's mall front teeth might have punched a row of holes in the flesh. That would have made the flesh easier to tear- - like pulling sheets of paper from a spiral- bound notebook. LIVED LIKE A LION Fossils show that saber- toothed cats often survived even after they had been badly wounded. How did they get enough to eat when they were too hurt to hunt?
Like lions, the cats probably lived in groups- - and ate leftovers from prey that the other cats had killed. BYE- BYE, BIG CAT At the end of the Ice Age- - about 10,000 years ago- - the climate slowly got warmer. Different kinds of plants began to grow, turning forests to plains. Some scientists think the big cats' prey could not live as well there and finally died out. Other scientists think people killed off the cats' prey. Either way, the cats were soon gone too.
These magnificent animals have been extinct for a long time. But scientists are still finding out lots of lively things about them! (3) Quagga Subspecies of the plain zebra with a withers of 1.30 m, for meat and leather by South African farmers root out, also they were seen by the settlers as competitors for the grazing of the life stock, mainly sheep and goats. The last free quagga was killed in South Africa in 1878 and the last zoo-quagga died at Amsterdam Zoo on 12 August 1883. Formerly they thought that the quagga was a separate species (Equus quagga), but after examination of DNA in the 1980's, which revealed that the quagga is a subspecies (Equus burchelli quagga) of the plain zebra (Equus burchelli).
A selective breeding programme whitt plain zebra's was started in 1987. This aims to retrieve the quagga genes, and to eventually produce individuals that will be comparable to the extinct quagga..