There are almost-complete dodo skeletons, but it’s still amazing to me that a creature that made such an impression on the world wasn’t better preserved. As for what they looked like in life, we mostly have contemporary drawings and paintings to go on, and there aren’t that many of those, either. There’s so much we don’t know, and will probably never know. What colors were the dodo’s plumage? How many eggs did it lay at a time? How did it move? This is information that existed, it was right there, and it’s just lost to us. And did you know that the dodo was a member of the pigeon family? What a notion—a fifty-pound pigeon! That’s one of the answers life came up with, just as it came up with fish and snakes and the thylacine and us. A fifty-pound pigeon that swallowed fist-size rocks to grind its food.

Of course, it’s possible that the reason we remember the dodo so well, and have made it the flagship extinct species, is that Lewis Carroll put it in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. The story I’ve heard about that is that Lewis Carroll, whose real name was Charles Dodgson, identified with the dodo because he spoke with a stutter and therefore pronounced his own name “Do-do-dodgson.” I’m skeptical of that, in part because if you say Dodgson with a stutter you don’t get “dodo,” you get “duhduh,” but it is a good story.

Finally, a dear friend of mine is a geneticist, and I’m full of good ideas for him, such as “cure COVID-19” and “engineer a kosher pig,” but the thing I most want him to do is resurrect extinct species like the dodo and the thylacine. If I had to pick one species to bring back it’d probably be the thylacine, but the dodo is a close second. I want dogs that move like rodents! I want pigeons that weigh as much as a six-year-old child! If we’re going to have the hubris to cause extinction we should mobilize that same hubris to bring those species back. Who’s with me?