Understanding Extinct [Science Tattoo]

By Carl Zimmer | February 20, 2010 8:10 pm

Dodo440Cecilia writes, “I am working on my PhD in wildlife population genetics, and I can trace my passion for my research to a moment when I was in elementary school and we learned about the extinct dodo bird from Mauritius Island.  At first, I could not understand what “extinct” meant, but as the concept sunk in that I would never see this bird, and no one else would ever see it again, I felt a deep sadness and sense of loss.  Recently, as I was slogging through field and lab work and my ambition started sagging, I decided to get a dodo tattoo to remind myself why I chose this path.  Extinction is forever, and we never know what we’ve lost until it’s gone.  Some researchers believe that the dodo was the prime seed disperser for the tambalacoque tree that is declining in numbers because there hasn’t been a dodo around for over 300 years to abrade the seeds.  If this is true, it would be a succinct example of how extinctions reverberate through ecosystems.  I hope that my work will help prevent future extinctions of wildlife.”

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Comments (9)

  1. arallyn

    The dodo isn’t a particularly attractive bird, but the back story almost made me cry. :) That’s a really well-shaded bird!

  2. David

    He said that the controversial e-mail exchanges about climate change data had caused people to suspect that scientists “oppressed free speech”.

    His fellow panel members, including Lord Martin Rees, president of the UK’s Royal Society, agreed that scientists needed to be more open about their findings.

    “There is some evidence that the distrust has spread,” Dr Cicerone told BBC News. “There is a feeling that scientists are suppressing dissent, stifling their competitors through conspiracies.”

    “Public opinion polls are showing that the answers to questions like: ‘how much do you respect scientists?’ or ‘are they behaving in disinterested ways?’, have deteriorated in the last few months.”

    He said that this crisis of public confidence should be a wake-up call for researchers, and that the world had now “entered an era in which people expected more transparency”.

    “People expect us to do things more in the public light and we just have to get used to that,” he said. “Just as science itself improves and self-corrects, I think our processes have to improve and self-correct.”

    Unless evolutionist do the same they will go the way of the Dodo.

  3. Benjamin

    I love it, nice looking piece!

  4. Craig

    Huh, I’d have gone for a desktop background for my daily reminder.

  5. Owlmirror

    The story of The Ugly Chickens might appeal, in a sad sort of way, to those who ponder the dodo’s extinction.

    Perhaps I should do something symbolic. Cancel my flight. Climb the mountain and look down on man and all his handiworks. Take a pitcher of martinis with me. Sit in the bright semitropical sunlight (it’s early dry winter here). Drink the martinis slowly, toasting Snuffo, God of Extinction. Here’s one for the Great Auk. This is for the Carolina Parakeet. Mud in your eye, Passenger Pigeon. This one’s for the Heath Hen. Most importantly, here’s one each for the Mauritius dodo, the white dodo of Réunion, the Réunion solitaire, the Rodriguez solitaire. Here’s to the Raphidae, great Didine birds that you were.

  6. Jut

    Hi,

    Like your story :)

    In a similar vein I decided a Dodo tattoo would be an appropriate symbol for life passing you by and getting on with things before I became extinct

    here’s a link:
    http://i26.photobucket.com/albums/c147/jut1972/tattoo.jpg

    It’s based on the reconstruction at Oxford Uni Museum

  7. Hi, all, I’m with the National Public Radio-syndicated science show ‘Radiolab,’ that has a large national and international following (http://www.wnyc.org/shows/radiolab/). Mr. Zimmer appeared on our show last season, in the ‘Parasites’ episode.

    I’m in search of people who have tattoos of extinct species of plant or animal, ideally people in the greater New York City area. We’re trying to gauge the feasibility of doing a video piece on this subject for Radiolab. Please let us know via radiolab@wnyc.org if you are itching to share your extinct species tattoo story with our funky radio show!

  8. That’s a nice tattoo.

    Extinction of a certain species always have an effect on the eco-system!

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The Loom

A blog about life, past and future. Written by DISCOVER contributing editor and columnist Carl Zimmer.

About Carl Zimmer

Carl Zimmer writes about science regularly for The New York Times and magazines such as DISCOVER, which also hosts his blog, The LoomHe is the author of 12 books, the most recent of which is Science Ink: Tattoos of the Science Obsessed.

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