The changing face of the dodo (Aves: Columbidae:Raphus cucullatus): iconography of the Walghvogel of Mauritius

A.A.E. van der Geer*, L.P.A.M. Claessens, K.F. Rijsdijk, G.A. Lyras

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

2 Citations (Web of Science)


The dodo (Raphus cucullatus) was a large, flightless pigeon endemic to the island of Mauritius (Indian Ocean). Its unusual appearance was recorded in several 17th-century depictions of live or recently killed birds. It became extinct at the end of the 17th century, and in some subsequent accounts, it was even considered as non-existent. Dodo images became rare from the mid-17th century, but its inclusion in Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland initiated a change, establishing it as an icon to a much wider public. Since then, illustrations of dodos have been used in all kinds of media, arguably making it the most iconic extinct bird. Here we analyse how the dodo image evolved from 1600 to 2013, using 2D-geometric morphometrics. Our results show that in particular cartoons, animations and logos tend to put an extreme emphasis on the bulging anterior part of the beak, and that the beak is strongly hooked. The variation in dodo images has increased since 1865, culminating in an explosion of shapes during the past decades. The often exaggerated, cartoonesque depiction of the dodo is in line with the long-held but incorrect popular belief that it was a clumsy, tragic bird destined for extinction.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)648-657
Number of pages10
JournalHistorical Biology
Issue number4
Early online date28 Jul 2021
Publication statusPublished - 3 Apr 2022


  • Alice in Wonderland
  • dodo reconstruction
  • Edwards' dodo
  • extinction icon
  • geometric morphometrics

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