So at the end of July the moult would have been completed in time for the next breeding season.The research also sheds new light on the colour of the birds' feathers at different stages of moulting, and reveals new information on the species' mating habits and early growth.Through their study of dodo bones (pictured) the researchers conclude that mariners' descriptions dodo colours varies because the birds moulted throughout each season, changing colour as their feathers grew As well as the discovery that dodos moulted, the landmark new study also found the dodo experienced rapid growth rates until it reached sexual maturity.Pictured are yransverse thin sections of a humerus of the dodo Dodos described as having a downy plumage were probably observed and described just after moult, as seen in some modern moulting birds, Dr Angst said.The breeding season started around August with ovulation in females, the research found.
Dodos lived in Mauritius but went extinct within a century after European sailors colonised the island in the sixteenth century.Most of today's birds shed their feathers - some up to three times a year - and scientists have long debated whether the flightless dodo did the same.The new detailed analysis of 22 bones from 22 dodos from fossil sites on the Indian Ocean island nation Mauritius, where the extinct bird was once endemic, reveals the dodo shed its feathers just like modern birds.Pictured left and right are sections of hindlimb dodo bones showing resorption cavities which are interpreted as evidence of molt Painters showed body hues ranging from from light-blue-grey to a grey-brown - suggesting there may have been a difference between male and female birds.Study coauthor Dr Delphine Angst said: 'Moulting periods have been previously proposed for the dodo but these are generally unsupported.'The dodo was variably described as having three or four black quills in the place of their wings, and a tail with four or five small curled plumes of a greyish colour.'Some other descriptions of the dodo mention a clothing of downy feathers or even no feathers on their body, which is instead covered in black down.'We propose that mariners may have been describing the dodo at different stages of moult.This enabled them to reach a big size to withstand the harsh conditions of the Southern Hemisphere summer and cyclone season from November to March.