Dodos and solitaires were driven to extinction by human hunting. They were frequently killed for food, particularly by sailors visiting the islands they once inhabited. They also suffered from the introduction of non-native species such as pigs, cats, and rats by humans. Some dodos and solitaires were brought to Europe where they were associated with exotic islands. Because dodos were so quickly hunted to extinction, they continue to serve as symbols of extinction.
Dodos and solitaires were close relatives of the pigeons and doves. Unlike existing pigeons and doves, however, they were unable to fly. They were also much larger in size. These features of flightlessness and gigantism (jie-GAN-tiz-um) likely evolved because their island habitats included no predators. In fact, flightlessness and gigantism have evolved in many other island birds. Unfortunately for dodos and solitaires, flightlessness was an extreme disadvantage when humans and other predators reached the Mascarene Islands.
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