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Temporal range: Miocene–present
Miocene to present Possible Paleocene appearance.
Darica Cossowary 00975.jpg
Southern cassowary
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Infraclass: Palaeognathae
Clade: Notopalaeognathae
Clade: Novaeratitae
Order: Casuariiformes
(Sclater 1880) Forbes 1884[1]


2 families, 4 genera (including 2 extinct),
11 species (including 6 extinct)
  • Casuarii Sclater 1880

The Casuariiformes is an order of large flightless bird that has four surviving members: the three species of cassowary, and the only remaining species of emu. They are classified as one family Casuariidae or two, with the emu split off into its own family Dromaiidae.

All four living members are native to Australia-New Guinea,[3] but some possible extinct taxa occurred in other landmasses.

Systematics and evolution


The emus form a distinct family, characterized by legs adapted for running. As with all ratites, there are several contested theories concerning their evolution and relationships. As regards this order, 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 total number of cassowary species described, based on minor differences in casque shape and color variations, formerly reached nine.[4] Now, however, only 3 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,[5] 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,[6] but these birds were completely unrelated.

It has been suggested that the South American genus Diogenornis was a casuraiiform bird, instead of a member of the current South American ratite lineage, the rheas. If this was the case, not only it expanded the fossil range of this lineage spatially, but temporally as well, since Diogenornis occurs in the late Paleocene and is among the earliest known ratites.[7] The Pliocene indian Hypselornis has also been linked to emus and cassowaries,[8] but no recent (post-30's) studies have been performed in this extremely obscure taxon.


Casuariiformes (Sclater 1880) Forbes 1884[9][10][11]

  • ?†Diogenornis - de Alvarenga 1983 (Paleocene of Brazil)
  • Casuariidae Kaup 1847 [Casuariinae Reichenbach 1849] (emus and cassowaries)
    • ?†Hypselornis Lydekker 1929
    • Emuarius Boles 1992 (emuwaries) (Late Oligocene – Late Miocene)
      • E. gidju (Patterson & Rich 1987) Boles 1992 [Dromaius gidju Patterson & Rich 1987]
      • E. guljaruba Boles 2001
    • Casuarius (Linnaeus 1758) Brisson 1760 [Cela Oken 1816; Cela Moehr 1752 nomen rejectum; Rhea Lacépède 1800 non Latham 1790; Chelarga Billberg 1828; Oxyporus Brookes 1828 non (Bourdot & Galzin 1925) Donk 1933; Thrasys Billberg 1828; Cassowara Perry 1811; Hippalectryo Gloger 1842] (cassowary)
      • C. lydekkeri Rothschild 1911 (Pygmy cassowary)
      • C. casuarius (Linnaeus 1758) Brisson 1760 [Struthio casuarius Linnaeus 1758; Casuarius casuarius altijugus (Sclater 1878); Casuarius altijugus Sclater 1878; ; Casuarius casuarius aruensis (Schlegel 1866); Casuarius aruensis Schlegel 1866; Casuarius australis D'Albertis non Wall 1854; Casuarius casuarius australis; Casuarius casuarius beccarii (Sclater 1875); Casuarius beccarii Sclater 1875; Casuarius bicarunculatus Sclater 1860; Casuarius casuarius bicarunculatus (Sclater 1860); Casuarius bicarunculatus bicarunculatus; Casuarius bistriatus van Oort 1907; Casuarius casuarius bistriatus van (Oort 1907); Casuarius casuarius casuarius (Linnaeus 1758); Casuarius casuarius chimaera Rothschild 1904; Casuarius bicarunculatus chimaera (Rothschild 1904); Casuarius casuarius grandis Rothschild 1937; Casuarius galeatus Bonnaterre 1790; Casuarius casuarius hamiltoni Mathews 1915; Casuarius casuarius intensus Rothschild 1898; Casuarius bicarunculatus intermedius Rothschild 1928; Casuarius casuarius intermedius (Rothschild 1928); Casuarius casuarius johnsonii (Müller 1866); Casuarius johnsonii Müller 1866; Casuarius casuarius lateralis Rothschild 1925; Casuarius casuarius salvadorii (Oustalet 1878); Casuarius salvadorii Oustalet 1878; Casuarius casuarius sclaterii (Salvadori 1878); Casuarius sclaterii Salvadori 1878; Casuarius casuarius tricarunculatus (Beccari 1876); Casuarius bicarunculatus tricarunculatus (Beccari 1876); Casuarius tricarunculatus Beccari 1876; Casuarius casuarius violicollis Rothschild 1899; Cassowara eximia Perry 1811; Hippalectryo indicus Gloger 1842; Hippalectryo casuarius; Casuarius hagenbecki Rothschild 1904; Casuarius casuarius hagenbecki; Casuarius unappendiculatus hagenbecki (Rothschild 1904); Casuarius emeu; Casuarius orientalis; Casuarius javanensis] (Southern Cassowary)
      • C. unappendiculatus Blyth 1860 [Casuarius doggetti Rothschild 1904; ; Casuarius unappendiculatus doggetti (Rothschild 1904); Casuarius unappendiculatus mitratus Rothschild 1904; Casuarius unappendiculatus multicolor Le Souef 1930; Casuarius unappendiculatus suffusus Rothschild 1904; Casuarius unappendiculatus rothschildi (Matschie 1901); Casuarius rothschildi Matschie 1901; Casuarius unappendiculatus philipi (Rothschild 1898); Casuarius philipi Rothschild 1898; Casuarius unappendiculatus unappendiculatus; Casuarius unappendiculatus occipitalis (Salvadori 1878); Casuarius occipitalis Salvadori 1878; Casuarius unappendiculatus rufotinctus Rothschild 1900; Casuarius unappendiculatus aurentiacus Rothschild 1899; Casuarius kaupi Rosenberg 1861; Casuarius laglaizei Oustalet 1893] (Northern Cassowary)
      • C. bennetti Gould 1857 [Casuarius westermanni Sclater 1874; Casuarius papuanus Schlegel 1871; Casuarius goodfellowi Rothschild 1914; Casuarius foersteri Rothschild 1913; Casuarius keysseri Rothschild 1912; Casuarius jamrachi Rothschild 1904; Casuarius roseigularis Rothschild 1905; Casuarius rogersi Rothschild 1928; Casuarius edwardsi Oustalet 1878; Casuarius claudii Ogilvie-Grant 1911; Casuarius picticollis Sclater 1874; Casuarius loriae Rothschild 1898; Casuarius maculatus Rothschild 1900] (Dwarf Cassowary)
        • C. b. westermanni (Sclater 1874) [Casuarius westermanni Sclater 1874; Casuarius bennetti westermanni ; Casuarius papuanus Schlegel 1871; Casuarius bennetti papuanus (Schlegel 1871); Casuarius goodfellowi Rothschild 1914; Casuarius bennetti goodfellowi (Rothschild 1914); Casuarius papuanus goodfellowi (Rothschild 1914); Casuarius papuanus shawmayeri Rothschild 1937; Casuarius bennetti shawmayeri (Rothschild 1937); Casuarius foersteri Rothschild 1913; Casuarius bennetti foersteri (Rothschild 1913); Casuarius picticollis hecki Rothschild 1899; Casuarius bennetti hecki (Rothschild 1899); Casuarius keysseri Rothschild 1912; Casuarius bennetti keysseri (Rothschild 1912); Casuarius jamrachi Rothschild 1904; Casuarius casuarius jamrachi (Rothschild 1904); Casuarius unappendiculatus jamrachi (Rothschild 1904); Casuarius roseigularis Rothschild 1905; Casuarius bennetti roseigularis (Rothschild 1905); Casuarius rogersi Rothschild 1928] (Papuan dwarf cassowary)
        • C. b. bennetti Gould 1857 [Casuarius edwardsi Oustalet 1878; Casuarius bennetti edwardsi (Oustalet 1878); Casuarius westermanni edwardsi (Oustalet 1878); Casuarius claudii Ogilvie-Grant 1911; Casuarius bennetti claudii (Ogilvie-Grant 1911); Casuarius picticollis Sclater 1874; Casuarius bennetti picticollis (Sclater 1874); Casuarius loriae Rothschild 1898; Casuarius bennetti loriae (Rothschild 1898); Casuarius maculatus Rothschild 1900; Casuarius bennetti maculatus (Rothschild 1900)] (Bennett's cassowary)
  • Dromaiidae Huxley 1868 [Dramaiinae Gray 1870; Dramiceiidae Richmond 1908; Dramaeidae Newton 1896] (modern emus)
    • Dromaius Vieillot 1816 [Tachea Fleming 1822; Emou Griffith & Pidgeon 1829; Peronista Mathews 1912; Metapteryx De Vis, 1892] (emus) (Middle Miocene – Recent)
      • D. ocypus Miller 1963 [Casuarius ocypus (Miller 1963)]
      • D. novaehollandiae (Latham 1790) Vieillot 1816 [Casuarius novae-hollandiae Latham 1790; †Dromaius gracilipes De Vis 1892; †Dromaius patricius De Vris 1888; Metapteryx bifrons De Vis 1892] (emu)
        • D. n. minor Spencer 1906 [Dromaeus minor (sic) Spencer 1906; Dromaius novaehollandiae ater Vieillot 1817; Dromiceius spenceri (sic) Mathews 1912; Dromaeus bassi Legge 1907; Dromaius ater Vieillot 1817 nomen novum; Peronista spenceri (Mathews 1912)] (King Island/black emu)
        • D. n. baudinianus Parker 1984 [Dromaius baudinianus Parker 1984; Dromaius baudinianus baudinianus; Dromaius parvulus Mathews 1901; Dromaius peroni Rothschild 1907; Dromiceius novaehollandiae gunni Mathews 1922; Peronista peroni (Rothschild 1907) Mathews 1913] (Kangaroo Island/dwarf emu)
        • D. n. diemenensis (Jennings 1827) Le Souef 1907 [Casuarius diemenianus Jennings 1827; Dromaeus diemenensis (Jennings 1827) Le Souëf 1907; Peronista diemenianus Mathews 1927] (Tasmanian emu)
        • D. n. novaehollandiae (Latham 1790) [Dromaius novaehollandiae rothschildi Mathews 1912; Casuarius australis Shaw 1792; Casuarius novaehollandiae Latham 1790; Dromaeus irroratus Bartlett 1859; Dromaius novaehollandiae montanus Campbell 1939; Dromaius novaehollandiae woodwardi Mathews 1912; Dromiceius emu Stephens 1826; Dromiceius major Brookes 1830; Tachea novaehollandiae; Struthio novaehollandiae] (Australian emu)


  1. ^ Brand, S. (2008)
  2. ^ Brodkob, Pierce (1963). "Catalogue of fossil birds 1- Archaeopterygiformes through Ardeiformes". Biological sciences, Bulletin of the Florida State Museum. 7 (4): 180-293. Retrieved 30 December 2015. 
  3. ^ Clements, J (2007)
  4. ^ Lockyer, Norman (14 October 1875). Nature. 12. London, UK: Macmillan and Co. pp. 516–517. 
  5. ^ From "Emu" + "Casuarius". Describer W. E. Boles commonly refers to the genus as "emuwaries" or "cassomus".
  6. ^ The vernacular name "mihirung" is derived from mihirung paringmal, which means "giant emu" in the Chaap Wuurong language
  7. ^ H. Alvarenga, Diogenornis fragilis Alvarenga, 1985, restudied: a South American ratite closely related to Casuariidae, 2010
  8. ^ Lowe, Percy Roycroft 1929. Some remarks on Hypselornis sivalensis Lydekker. Ibis. 71: (4) 571–576. (Journal Article)
  9. ^ Mikko's Phylogeny Archive [1] Haaramo, Mikko (2007). "PALEOGNATHIA- paleognathous modern birds". Retrieved 30 December 2015. 
  10. ^ (net, info) "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2016-01-11. Retrieved 2015-12-30. . "Taxonomic lists- Aves". Archived from the original on 11 January 2016. Retrieved 30 December 2015. 
  11. ^ [2] Perron, Richard (2010). "Taxonomy of the Genus Casuarius". Retrieved 30 December 2015. 


  • Boles, Walter E. (2001). "A new emu (Dromaiinae) from the Late Oligocene Etadunna Formation". Emu. 101: 317–321. doi:10.1071/MU00052. 
  • Brands, Sheila (Apr 8, 2012). "Taxon: Order Casuariiformes". Project: The Taxonomicon. Retrieved Jun 17, 2012. 
  • 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)". In del Hoyo, Josep; Elliott, Andrew; Sargatal, Jose. Handbook of the Birds of the World, Volume 1: Ostrich to Ducks. Barcelona, Spain: Lynx Edicions. pp. 90–97. ISBN 84-87334-09-1. 

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