Scientists Discover Fossils of Now-Extinct Giant Pigeon on Pacific Islands

It would seem that the dodo has a new companion on the list of giant island pigeons that have been hunted until they got to extinction. According to an analysis of fossils. The Tongoenas burleyi, a genus and species that has just been described recently, has lived on the Pacific Islands for a minimum of 60,000 years. Fossils also prove that the birds disappeared a couple of centuries after humans appeared on the islands. That would be about 2,850 years ago.

The Special Case of Giant Fruit Pigeons

There are some differences between the now-extinct Viti Levu giant pigeon from Fiji, the dodo and the newly discovered T. burleyi. T. burleyi could actually fly. It would normally spend its days in the canopy and it evolved together with the trees that bore fruit, such as guava, mango and chinaberry. These birds used to be an essential cultivator because they spread seeds in a lot of new locations. They were about the size of a large duck and they were entirely capable of swallowing fruit that is about the size of a tennis ball. All this information was made public by David Steadman, a curator of ornithology at the Florida Museum of Natural History and the lead author of the study.

What Do the Experts Say?

Steadman also explained that a lot of those trees had large, fleshy fruit, which were definitely adapted for a big pigeon such as the T. burleyi to swallow and pass on the seeds. Regarding the giant fruit-eating pigeons, this particular find is the largest so far and there are chances that it was able to gulp much bigger canopy fruit than other birds. This is an interesting species because it takes the concept of co-evolution to the absolute extreme. Nevertheless, it is now absent from the Tongan islands, thus threatening the long-term survival of the trees that actually depended on the giant pigeon as a transporter of seeds.