The Extinct Queen: The Story Of Its Disappearance

The extinct drone: the story of its disappearance

Much has been written about the extinct drone ( Raphus cucullatus ) over the years. Unfortunately, most of this information comes from legends and illustrations that have often led us astray.

We still do not know everything about how this animal really was or why it became extinct.

The extinct drone and its physical appearance

The queen came from Mauritius, east of Madagascar, and was a bird that could not fly. Nowadays, only its skeleton remains, but many drawings and stories about it have been found.

The researchers believe that the drone was a large and heavy bird: 100 cm high and between 10 – 18 kg. The femurs were long, so the queen must have had very muscular legs. However, the legs in the wings were very small, and it probably could not fly.

The skeleton also showed the drone had a large beak – about 20 cm long. The shape of the beak indicates that the bird ate most of the seeds and fruit, and it is very likely that the favorite food consisted of seeds from the calvary tree.

A study from Linnaeus University claimed that the drone had a highly developed sense of smell, which it probably used to find seeds on the ground. It may also have dug them up with its strong legs.

How and why was the queen exterminated?

Skeleton of a dront.

It took less than 100 years for man to exterminate the queen.

When man arrived in Mauritius in the 16th century, he and other birds were hunted, which had no other predators at this time. This was part of the reason they could not defend themselves.

The drone was easy to catch and was not afraid of the new inhabitants of the island. The sailors could therefore easily have killed it, which led to its extinction.

The last time anyone was said to have seen a drone was in 1662. There were also other reports that may have to do with a similar bird that can easily be confused with a drone: the red fox.

Despite this, statistical techniques have been used to establish that the queen probably still lived around 1690.

Other birds in the same situation

Drawing of a dront.

The drone was not the only bird of its kind that became extinct by humans. Here is a list of birds that have disappeared less than 100 years after coming into contact with humans:

  • Rödrall ( Aphanapteryx bonasia )
  • Giant Elephant ( Aepyornis maximus )
  • Sydöjättemoa ( Dinornis robustus )
  • Kustmoa ( Euryapteryx curtus )
  • Dromaius baudinianus
  • Struthio camelus syriacus
  • Amsterdamand ( Anas marecula )
  • Nordögås ( Cnemiornis gracilis
  • Garden bird ( Pinguinus impennis )
  • Northern island beak ( Aptornis otidiformis )
  • Hawkinsrall ( Diaphorapteryx hawkinsi
  • Sankthelenarall ( Aphanocrex podarces )

The extinction of species is not only negative for the species itself as such. Each species also plays a fundamental role in the global ecological system, and the consequences can affect everyone on the planet.

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