Didus solitaria Gmelin, 1789, Rodrigues.
OTHER COMMON NAMES
French: Dronte de Rodriguez; German: Einsiedler; Spanish: Solitario de la Rodrнguez. PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS These large birds were strongly sexually dimorphic in size; males were larger than females and possessed metacarpal spurs the size of “musketballs.”
Rodrigues, a small (40 mi2; 104 km2) volcanic island about 220 mi (350 km) east of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean.
Better known than the dodo from contemporary accounts. Franзois Leguat described their
in 1692: solitaires lived in pairs, were territorial, laid clutches of a single egg, and their young joined a creche. Skeletal remains show mended fractures in the metacarpus that suggest a pugilistic function. Wings were vigorously flapped “when angry” and produced “a great noise...something like thunder in the distance” or “very like that of a rattle;” this display was likely an aspect of courtship
. Their voice had been described as similar to that of a gosling’s squeak. This solitaire was an apparently territorial species. During incubation or while caring for their young during the time “which [it] is not able to provide for its self in several Months, they will not suffer any other Bird of their Species to come within two hundred yards round of the Place;” males responded to intruding males and females to other females. This stated measure suggests maintenance of a 25-acre (10-ha) territory.
FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET
This solitaire was reported to have fed on seeds, Latania palm fruit, and foliage. Like dodos, Rodrigues solitaires appeared to have had a marked annual fat cycle in which they were fat from March to September and thin for the remainder of the year. Gennes de la Chanceliиre described two young birds as each having a fat layer 1-in (2.5-cm) thick over the body. Gizzard stones have been found with skeletal remains.
Rodrigues solitaires laid a single egg in a nest constructed of palm leaves. Nests were built on the ground and were about 16 in (40 cm) in height. Both sexes incubated eggs. Leguat reported a seven-week incubation period, but based on estimated egg size, models predict a 37-day incubation period. Young apparently joined creches after a period with parents, although Leguat described this social amalgamation of broods as “marriages.”
Extinct. Portuguese sailors reached Rodrigues in 1507, but the island was not inhabited by humans until May 1, 1691, when Leguat and eight others arrived. Introduced pigs were especially devastating predators of young solitaires and eggs. A few solitaires were reported in the wild in 1755 and 1761, but these seem to be the last sightings. Individuals who speculate that the solitaire disappeared in the 1750s blame feral cats and possibly dry season fires for the solitaire’s demise.
SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS
Rodrigues solitaires were a source of fresh meat for crews and passengers of ships traveling in the Indian Ocean.
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