From All Birds Wiki

Temporal range: Pliocene–present Pliocene to present
Southern Cassowary.
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Infraclass: Palaeognathae
Clade: Notopalaeognathae
Clade: Novaeratitae
Order: Casuariiformes
P.L. Sclater, 1880

Hippalectryonidae Heine & Reichenow, 1882-90
Dromaiidae Huxley, 1868
Dromiceiidae Richmond, 1908

The bird family Casuariidae has four surviving members: the three species of cassowary, and the only remaining species of Emu.

All four members of the order are very large flightless birds native to Australia-New Guinea.[1] The characteristics of the family are those of its members.

Systematics and evolution[edit]


The emus form a distinct subfamily, characterized by legs adapted for running. As with all ratites, there are several contested theories concerning their evolution and relationships. As regards this family, it is especially interesting whether emus or cassowaries are the more primitive form: the latter are generally assumed to retain more plesiomorphic features, but this does not need to be true at all; the fossil record is also ambiguous, and the present state of genomics does not allow for sufficiently comprehensive analyses. A combination of all these approaches with considerations of plate tectonics at least is necessary for resolving this issue.

The number of cassowary species described based on minor differences in casque shape and color variations is quite large[citation needed]. In recent times, however, only three species are recognized, and most authorities only acknowledge few subspecies or none at all.

The fossil record of casuariforms is interesting, but not very extensive. Regarding fossil species of Dromaius and Casuarius, see their genus pages.

Some Australian fossils initially believed to be from emus were recognized to represent a distinct genus, Emuarius,[2] which had a cassowary-like skull and femur and an emu-like lower leg and foot. In addition, the first fossils of mihirungs were initially believed to be from giant emus,[3] but these birds were completely unrelated.

Family Casuariidae - cassowaries

Subfamily Dromaiidae - emus

  • Genus Emuarius - "emuwaries" (fossil)
    • Emuarius guljaruba (Late Oligocene - Late Miocene)
    • Emuarius gidju (Late Oligocene - Early Miocene of N Australia - see: Records of the Australian Museum (2005) Vol. 57: 179)


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Clements, J (2007)
  2. ^ From "Emu" + "Casuarius". Describer W. E. Boles commonly refers to the genus as "emuwaries" or "cassomus".
  3. ^ The vernacular name "mihirung" is derived from mihirung paringmal, which means "giant emu" in the Chaap Wuurong language
  4. ^ Brands, S. (2008)


  • Boles, Walter E. (2001): A new emu (Dromaiinae) from the Late Oligocene Etadunna Formation. Emu 101: 317–321. HTML abstract
  • Brands, Sheila (Aug 14 2008). "Systema Naturae 2000 / Classification, Family Casuariidae". Project: The Taxonomicon. Retrieved Feb 04 2009. {{cite web}}: Check date values in: |accessdate= and |date= (help)
  • Clements, James (2007). The Clements Checklist of the Birds of the World (6 ed.). Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press. ISBN 978 0 8014 4501 9.
  • Folch, A. (1992). Family Casuariidae (Cassowaries). pp. 90– 97 in; del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A. & Sargatal, J. eds. Handbook of the Birds of the World, Vol 1, Ostrich to Ducks. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. ISBN 8487334091

External links[edit]

File:Bird diversity.png This article is part of Project Bird Orders, a All Birds project that aims to write comprehensive articles on each bird order, including made-up orders.
This article is part of Project Bird Taxonomy, a All Birds project that aims to write comprehensive articles on every order, family and other taxonomic rank related to birds.