Temporal range: 5–0 Ma Early Pliocene – Recent
Southern Cassowary 7071.jpg
Southern cassowary
Scientific classification edit
Kaup, 1847[1]
Brisson, 1760
Type species
Struthio casuarius
Linnaeus, 1758

Casuarius casuarius
Southern cassowary
Casuarius unappendiculatus
Northern cassowary
Casuarius bennetti
Dwarf cassowary
Casuarius lydekkeri
Pygmy cassowary

  • Casoarius Bont.
  • Cela Oken1816
  • Cela Moehr 1752 nomen rejectum
  • Rhea Lacépède 1800 non Latham 1790
  • Chelarga Billberg 1828
  • Oxyporus Brookes 1828
  • Thrasys Billberg 1828
  • Cassowara Perry 1811
  • Hippalectryo Gloger 1842[2]

Cassowaries (i/), genus Casuarius, are ratites (flightless birds without a keel on their sternum bone) that are native to the tropical forests of New Guinea (Papua New Guinea and Indonesia), nearby islands, and northeastern Australia.[3]

There are three extant species. The most common of these, the southern cassowary, is the third-tallest and second-heaviest living bird, smaller only than the ostrich and emu.

Cassowaries feed mainly on fruit, although all species are truly omnivorous and will take a range of other plant food, including shoots and grass seeds, in addition to fungi, invertebrates, and small vertebrates. Cassowaries are very shy, but when provoked they are capable of inflicting injuries, occasionally fatal, to dogs and people.

Taxonomy, systematics and evolution

The genus Casuarius was erected by the French scientist Mathurin Jacques Brisson in his Ornithologie published in 1760.[4] The type species is the southern cassowary (Casuarius casuarius).[5] The Swedish naturalist Carl Linnaeus had introduced the genus Casuarius in the 6th edition of his Systema Naturae published in 1748,[6] but Linnaeus dropped the genus in the important tenth edition of 1758 and put the southern cassowary together with the common ostrich and the greater rhea in the genus Struthio.[7][8] As the publication date of Linnaeus's sixth edition was before the 1758 starting point of the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature, Brisson and not Linnaeus is considered as the authority for the genus.[9]

Cassowaries (from the Malay name kasuārī)[10] are part of the ratite group, which also includes the emu, rheas, ostriches, and kiwi, and the extinct moas and elephant birds. Three extant species are recognized, and one extinct:

Image Scientific name Common Name Distribution
Casuarius casuarius Schönbrunn2008a.jpg Casuarius casuarius Southern cassowary or double-wattled cassowary southern New Guinea, northeastern Australia, and the Aru Islands, mainly in lowlands[3]
Casuarius bennetti -Avilon Zoo, Rodriguez, Rizal, Philippines-8a.jpg Casuarius bennetti Dwarf cassowary or Bennett's cassowary New Guinea, New Britain, and Yapen, mainly in highlands.[3]
Casuarius unappendiculatus -Northern Cassowary -oblique front.jpg Casuarius unappendiculatus Northern cassowary or single-wattled cassowary Northern and western New Guinea, and Yapen, mainly in lowlands[3][11]

Most authorities consider the taxonomic classification above to be monotypic; however, several subspecies of each have been described,[14] and some of them have even been suggested as separate species, e.g., C. (b) papuanus.[11] The taxonomic name C. (b) papuanus may also be in need of revision to Casuarius (bennetti) westermanni.[15] Validation of these subspecies has proven difficult due to individual variations, age-related variations, the scarcity of specimens, the stability of specimens (the bright skin of the head and neck—the basis of describing several subspecies—fades in specimens), and the practice of trading live cassowaries for thousands of years, some of which are likely to have escaped or been deliberately introduced to regions away from their origin.[11]

Illustration of cassowary skull

The evolutionary history of cassowaries, as of all ratites, is not well known. A fossil species was reported from Australia, but for reasons of biogeography this assignment is not certain and it might belong to the prehistoric Emuarius, which were cassowary-like primitive emus.

Other Languages
العربية: شبنم
asturianu: Casuarius
azərbaycanca: Kazuar
беларуская: Казуары
български: Казуари
brezhoneg: Kazoar
Cebuano: Casuarius
čeština: Kasuár
dansk: Kasuarer
Deutsch: Kasuare
Ελληνικά: Καζουάριος
español: Casuarius
Esperanto: Kazuaro
euskara: Kasuario
فارسی: کاسوآری
français: Casuariidae
Gaeilge: Casabhara
galego: Casuario
한국어: 화식조
հայերեն: Կազուարներ
hrvatski: Pravi kazuari
Ido: Kazuaro
Bahasa Indonesia: Kasuari
italiano: Casuarius
עברית: קזואר
ქართული: კაზუარი
қазақша: Казуарлар
മലയാളം: കാസവരി
Bahasa Melayu: Kasuari
Nederlands: Casuarius
norsk: Kasuarer
norsk nynorsk: Kasuarar
پښتو: کاسوآري
polski: Kazuary
português: Casuar
română: Cazuar
русский: Казуары
संस्कृतम्: कास्सोवारिस्
සිංහල: කැසෝවරි
Simple English: Cassowary
slovenščina: Kazuar
Basa Sunda: Kaswari
suomi: Kasuaarit
svenska: Kasuarer
тоҷикӣ: Казуар
українська: Казуар
Tiếng Việt: Đà điểu đầu mào
Winaray: Casuarius
Zeêuws: Kasuarissen
中文: 鹤鸵