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In an alternate universe where other groups explored the world before Europeans, what new animals could have been domesticated? In my alternate history world, the Malagasy that came to Madagascar not only land there but also landed in the Mascarene Islands.

There are many roles a domesticated animal can be used for. The major ones are farm labor, dairy production, meat production, clothing production, transportation, pets, pest control, egg production, and hunting/guarding. Other animal roles include things like experimentation and sending messages and a few other things I have missed.

An animal needs 3 main qualities in order to be domesticated. Firstly, it must be able to be controlled by humans. It cannot be too large and dangerous. It also cannot easily disrupt human efforts to control it. Secondly, it must make a lot of babies in a short amount of time. That way, selective breeding and culling of the unwanted offspring can happen. Finally, feeding this animal must be easy. Ideally, the animal eats things humans don't eat like grass but any animal that overall eats less than a human can work.

So given these qualities, could the Dodo bird have been domesticated by the Malagasy? They had appropriate technology and could have used a flightless bird for chicken and egg production (like a chicken substitute). The issue is that Mauritius has limited space and invasive species could wreck havoc on the habitat.

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    $\begingroup$ They already had chickens. They had no need for a chicken substitute. (Madagascar was populated relatively recently. The Malagasy people came from South-East Asia complete will all the usual domestic animals.) $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Aug 19, 2022 at 21:30
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    $\begingroup$ None of your must have qualities are correct, all of them are in fact, not to put too fine a point on it 🤗 all complete rubbish, they may be qualities that would logically seem to make domestication 'easier' but none of them if lacking will preclude domestication of any animal should someone with adequate resources at their disposal decide to make a concerted effort to domestic the animal over an adequate period of time. $\endgroup$
    – Pelinore
    Aug 19, 2022 at 22:57
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    $\begingroup$ "They had appropriate technology" irrelevant fluff and pointless chaff .. absolutely no technology is either necessery or required for the domestication of a species .. what 'technology' possessed by the stone age hunter gatherers that domesticated them do you think was involved in the domestication of the wolves that became our dogs? $\endgroup$
    – Pelinore
    Aug 19, 2022 at 23:05
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    $\begingroup$ Search for "Russian silver fox domestication experiment." Over the experiment's 60 year history, it has taught us (a) that the answer to your Q (and every other "can X be domesticated?" Q) is always "yes." There may be issues of efficiency and practicality, but it's still "yes." And (b), the real question is "what changes about the animal due to domestication?" We're only scratching the surface of that answer, but we are learning, and it's much deeper than color and floppy ears. Let me caution you against asking about the Dodo, however. We no longer know enough about the Dodo to answer the Q. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Aug 20, 2022 at 2:51
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    $\begingroup$ @JBH Yep .. domestication is the end result of selective breeding .. which is simply guided evolution .. if it's an animal it's subject to evolution .. and if it's subject to evolution it can be domesticated .. how anyone defines 'domesticated' is irrelevant to the question really, because whatever the traits are that you might choose to define domestication by they can be achieved by selective breeding. $\endgroup$
    – Pelinore
    Aug 20, 2022 at 3:04

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Yes they can domesticate dodo as long as they can feed them and don't kill them all first.

Imported rodents did a lot more damage to dodos than humans did, eating their eggs because they did not have protective instincts that could deal with rodents. so humans will have to defend nests for them. likewise they were easy to hunt since they poor large predator avoidance instincts so breeding them on the mainland will be harder.

The dodo grow rapidly, accounts say they reached breeding age within a year, even if they only breed once a year, so turning them into a faster breeding species should be fairly easy.

They are quite a bit larger than chickens of the time and accounts say they tasted excellent so there is plenty of reason to breed them.

Diet is your biggest hurdle, dodo ate seeds and fruit, things humans could presumably eat as well, so you need a food source. One way is to have a grain crop to feed them, they need excess low desirable crop like a grain, this is what we feed animals today corn, millet, barley, ect. Since they eat a lot of palm nuts perhaps feeding them leftovers after palm oil extraction might work as well. On the upside dodo are described as having high appetites willing to eat spoiled fruit and half spoiled grain so it might be possible to feed them mostly on humans garbage like pigs.

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I feel like the question you're really asking is 'why would the Malagasy domesticate the Dodo?' It seems evident that they could, given enough time and a good reason.

Here's my pitch, and maybe its a bit bonkers - They use the Dodo as a weapon of war.

You mention that Dodos are invasive, and the Malagasy are a naval power that travels between islands. What if they noticed that a Dodo, left unchecked, can disrupt the delicate balance of a new island they have been brought to, and they decided 'hey let's train these things and release them on enemy land.' They teach their dodos to run rampant on an area, have lots of babies, and then return when summoned. The 'wild' dodos start to become a problem in one area, while the trained ones are shuttled around to various vulnerable areas across the island, kept safe from hunters. The enemy island becomes distracted, stretched thin trying to handle this pest problem, and then the Malagasy navy shows up in force at the worst possible time and takes over.

When they encounter agricultural societies, this strategy adapts to become even more effective. They start training their Dodos to use their beaks and claws to kill livestock and guard dogs. Rather than just letting the Dodos run rampant, teams of warriors bring the Dodos along in raiding parties, attacking farms and fields. Instead of burning the crops and houses, they kill and drive off everyone, let their trained dodos lay waste to the feilds, and then leave a community of dodos behind, tearing up the ground and scaring off people who try to come back to resettle.

Obviously this doesn't work forever, and the trained battle dodo eventually settles back into a more domestic role. These are more aggressive than wild dodos ever were, but not towards humans. For some, they are a convenient combination of a guard dog and an egg chicken - for others, they are big, dumb, feathered cats, argumentative and taking up space but ultimately friendly(ish) companions.

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