Emus Dromaius novaehollandiae, photographed by Bill & Mark Bell.

Belongs within: Palaeognathae.

The Casuariiformes are an Australasian clade of large flightless birds including the emus (Dromaius) and cassowaries (Casuarius). The emu Dromaius novaehollandiae is an inhabitant of open habitats in mainland Australia, while the less cursorial cassowaries are found in thick forest in New Guinea and northern Queensland. Cassowaries have mostly black plumage with bare, bright blue head and neck, often with one or two bright, contrastingly coloured wattles hanging from the neck, and a horny casque on the top of the head.

Characters (from here): Large graviportal flightless birds with 3 toes (hind toe lost). Sexes alike in coloration; plumage sombre brown or brownish black, naked blue skin on the head and neck. Plumage loose and hairlike due to the lack of barbules; no differentiated tail feathers. Wings and keel on sternum reduced, legs enlarged. Vestigial clavicles present in shoulder girdle; humerus much reduced, shorter than combined forewing and manus. Manus with a single digit (the third), bearing a long claw. Palate palaeognathous or dromaeognathous, with large vomers extending back to separate short palatines.

<==Casuariiformes [Casuariimorphae]
    |--Casuarius Brisson 1760 (see below for synonymy) B94
    |    |--C. australis Wall in Gould 1865 [incl. C. johnsoni Krefft 1867] N13
    |    |--C. bennettii S66
    |    |--C. bicarunculatus S66
    |    |--C. casuarius HK08
    |    |--C. galeatus N13
    |    |--C. lydekkeri F71 [=C. bennetti lydekkeri FP64]
    |    `--C. uniappendiculatus [incl. C. kaupi Rosenberg 1861] S66
    `--Dromaiidae [Dromaiinae, Dromiceiidae] B94
         |--Metapteryx bifrons WH02
         |--Emuarius U93
         |    |--E. gidju (Patterson & Rich 1987) [=Dromaius gidju] M09
         |    `--E. guljaruba Boles 2001 M09
         `--Dromaius Vieillot 1816 [incl. Dromiceius Vieillot 1816] B94
              |--D. ater FS01
              |--D. baudinianus FS01
              |--‘Dromaeus’ minor A14
              |--D. novaehollandiae (Latham 1790) WS48 (see below for synonymy)
              |    |--D. n. novaehollandiae WS48
              |    |--D. n. rothschildi (Mathews 1912) [=Dromiceius novaehollandiae rothschildi] WS48
              |    `--D. n. woodwardi (Mathews 1912) [=Dromiceius novaehollandiae woodwardi] WS48
              `--D. patricius F71

Casuarius Brisson 1760 [incl. Cela Möhring 1752 (pre-Linnean) non Cela Reichenbach 1852, Hippalectryo Gloger 1842; Casuariidae, Casuariinae, Celidae, Hippalectryonidae] B94

Dromaius novaehollandiae (Latham 1790) WS48 [=Casuarius novaehollandiae WS48, Dromiceius novaehollandiae FP64]

*Type species of generic name indicated


[A14] Anderson, W. 1914. Notes on the occurrence of the sand-rock containing bones of extinct species of marsupials (emu, kangaroo, wombat, etc.) on King Island, Bass Strait, Tasmania. Records of the Australian Museum 10 (9): 275–283.

[B94] Bock, W. J. 1994. History and nomenclature of avian family-group names. Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History 222: 1–281.

[FP64] Fisher, J., & R. T. Peterson. 1964. The World of Birds: A comprehensive guide to general ornithology. Macdonald: London.

[FS01] Flannery, T., & P. Schouten. 2001. A Gap in Nature: Discovering the World's Extinct Animals. Text Publishing: Melbourne.

[F71] Fletcher, H. O. 1971. Catalogue of type specimens of fossils in the Australian Museum, Sydney. Australian Museum Memoir 13: 1–167.

[HK08] Hackett, S. J., R. T. Kimball, S. Reddy, R. C. K. Bowie, E. L. Braun, M. J. Braun, J. L. Chojnowski, W. A. Cox, K.-L. Han, J. Harshman, C. J. Huddleston, B. D. Marks, K. J. Miglia, W. S. Moore, F. H. Sheldon, D. W. Steadman, C. C. Witt & T. Yuri. 2008. A phylogenomic study of birds reveals their evolutionary history. Science 320: 1763–1768.

[M09] Mayr, G. 2009. Paleogene Fossil Birds. Springer.

[N13] North, A. J. 1913. On the early history of the Australian cassowary (Casuarius australis, Wall). Records of the Australian Museum 10 (4): 39–48, pls 8–9.

[S66] Schlegel, H. 1866. Extract from a letter addressed to Mr. P. L. Sclater respecting Casuarius uniappendiculatus. Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London 1866: 168.

[U93] Unwin, D. M. 1993. Aves. In: Benton, M. J. (ed.) The Fossil Record 2 pp. 717–737. Chapman & Hall: London.

[WS48] Whittell, H. M., & D. L. Serventy. 1948. A systematic list of the birds of Western Australia. Public Library, Museum and Art Gallery of Western Australia, Special Publication 1: 1–126.

[WH02] Worthy, T. H., & R. N. Holdaway. 2002. The Lost World of the Moa: Prehistoric life of New Zealand. Indiana University Press: Bloomington (Indiana).

Last updated: 29 August 2019.

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