Everyone knows the phrase "as dead as a dodo" means something is gone and it's not coming back. Not many people have an in-depth knowledge of the bird that was the source of this catchy little phrase, however, and, given that more and more birds and animals are presently nearing extinction, the dodo's story is one that everyone should learn and remember.

Dodos, the large flightless birds endemic to the island of Mauritius and first observed by Dutch sailors during the late 16th-century were all but gone only 100-odd years after they had first been discovered.

They were both gone and forgotten until popularized by Lewis Carroll's beloved children's classic Alice in Wonderland, but they've hardly been out of public consciousness ever since. Popular belief - and at least one very vivid artistic rendering of the fall of the dodo - depicts marauding sailors decimating dodo populations to fill up their ships' coffers, but the reality was that adverse climactic conditions coupled with the introduction to the island of new and ferocious predators doomed the dodo.

Often weighing up to 50lbs, dodos were extremely large-framed birds, and, as their breastbones were relatively undeveloped, the species was flightless. Dodos nested on the ground - not a good thing when cats and dogs were among the hitherto unknown predators now introduced to the island - and were generally considered to be somewhat clumsy.

These striking looking birds with their large and downwardly-hooked beaks and their gay tuft of rump-feathers didn't stand a chance when pitted against disasters like flashfloods and ferocious felines, and the popular belief is that the last living dodo was sighted in 1662.

Dodo remains are on display in several museums throughout the world - including London, England, and East London, South Africa - but it's the Mauritius Natural History Museum in Port Louis that hit the jackpot in 2005 when it became the forever home of the extensive dodo remains discovered at the Mare aux Songes marshlands.

These relics - including several bone fragments and the remains of a dodo chick - have since become the museum's most popular display and, in fact, could soon be joined by Fred, the perfectly complete and incredibly well preserved dodo skeleton unearthed in a Mauritian cave in 2007.

The dodo's tale is a cautionary one and should be well-learned as no species deserves to go the way of the dodo.

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