Overview

Comprehensive Description

The family Casuariidae includes three living  species, all of the genus Casuarius. They live on island of New Guinea, and its nearby islands, and the northeastern part of Australia. All three cassowary species prefer rainforest habitat, as the birds require a large volume and diversity of fruit for their diet. The three species are generally segregated by altitude, ranging from lowland swamp forests to higher altitude montane forests.


Cassowaries are large ratites, and are among the largest birds in the world. Their drooping plumage is black and coarse, and they have brightly colored skin red and blue) on their necks. All three species possess a casque, or helmet, on the top of the head, which grows slowly throughout the bird's first few years. The function of the casque is poorly understood; it was originally thought that the birds use it to push aside underbrush as they travel through the dense forests. The casque may also be important in social dynamics, as it signals age of the individual. Two species of cassowary (the northern and southern cassowaries) have distinctive wattles, which are long folds of unfeathered skin that hang from the neck. 


In general, the sexes are fairly similar, though females are slightly larger and more brightly colored, and have larger casques. Cassowaries can run at speeds up to 50 km/hr, and can jump 1.5m from a standing position. Another of their well-known features is the dagger-like claw on their innermost toe; this claw can be a deadly weapon and cassowaries may use it in defense by jumping and kicking with both feet. Humans have been killed by such attacks, as males can be extremely aggressive when protecting nests or young. Other distinctive features include an extremely long aftershaft, nearly as long as the main feathers, and remiges that are reduced to bare quills and curve under the body. Their wings are stunted, with a smaller body-to-wing proportion than in some other ratites, and, like most other ratites, cassowaries have no tail feathers. They have small, rudimentary clavicles, a small procoracoid process, no syrinx, and reduced caeca. They have three toes like most ratites, and short middle phalanges.


They are generally shy birds, difficult to spot in the wild, though they travel regular paths in the forest and establish regular crossing points at rivers. They tend to remain solitary for much of the year, though pairs do form during the breeding season. Males will claim territories and pair with a female for a period of several weeks, during which time she will lay 3-5 eggs. Females may then mate with another male. Males will tend the eggs and young, remaining with the chicks for 9 months. Young cassowaries are striped brown, and do not fully gain adult plumage for 3 years.




Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© New Guinea Birds

Source: Birds of Papua New Guinea

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Cassowaries are closely related to Emu (Dromaiidae). They occur in New Zealand and northern Australia. Both families probably evolved from a common ancestor in the Pleistocene. Cassowaries (C. casuarius) reach up to 170 cm, weight 58 kg. They have a distinctive ""helmet"" on the head, the female’s helmet is larger. Females are also conspicuously colored and larger than males (reverse sexual dimorphism). Helmet is not elongation of cranial bones, but it is filled with foamy material. Its function is not yet satisfactorily explained. Helmet is probably used as a shield for worming dense vegetation. The helmet is fully developed only in adult individuals. Other things of interest on Cassowaries are conspicuous lobes on the neck, which are usually brightly colored. These lobes probably serve as intraspecific signals in dense dark vegetation. Cassowaries have three fingers on the back foot. The plumage is very rough, serving as protection from thorny vegetation. Hyporhachis of Cassowaries are similar to those of the emu’s, and practically as long as the main thorn. Rectrices are completely reduced, the flight feathers are reduced to 5-6 bare quills protecting the hips when crawling vegetation. Cassowaries are good swimmers, and could overcome lakes without difficulties. Toe carries up to 10 cm long claw which is an effective in defense. The adults with young chicks could be very dangerous, when alarmed. Attack is preceded by erect posture and striking deep voice. Cassowaries inhabit the rain forests, especially primary forests. C. casuarius inhabits lowlands up to middle altitudes, C. unappendiculatus is a species of lowland tropical forests and C. Bennett inhabits mountain forests at altitudes up to 3000 m. All cassowaries live solitary, except for nesting period. Their activity falls within the early morning and late evening hours, when they gather food from the ground or from low branches. The main diet is fruits, mostly families Myrtaceae and Lauraceae. A diet is sometimes supplemented by insects, small vertebrates, and also by carrion occasionally.


Nesting season begins in the period from July to October, when the greatest abundance of fruits is available. Males occupy home-ranges 1-5 km2 before the breeding season, although not aggression towards other males was identified. Once the female enters the male ward, male court to her repeatedly until the female is gradually accepting him and may be accompanied. Later, male walks around the female with erect feathers on the back, and makes the ""bu-bu-bu"" sounds. Male calms the female down during copulation by sifting through the feathers on his back, head cleaning, etc. Cassowaries’ males have penis similarly to other runners.  After mating, the female stay in male’s territory until she lays 3-5 eggs into a nest (pre-prepared by male). Male consequently mate with another 2-3 females during the breeding season. Male incubates the eggs laid into his nest and takes care of the chicks. Incubation time is between 49-56 days. The male cares for the chicks for a period of 9 months. Juveniles mature in the third year of life.

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© New Guinea Birds

Source: Birds of Papua New Guinea

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Physical Description

Morphology

Other Physical Features: endothermic ; bilateral symmetry

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Ecology

Habitat

Cassowaries inhabit the rain forests, especially primary forests. C. casuarius inhabits lowlands up to middle altitudes, C. unappendiculatus is a species of lowland tropical forests and C. Bennett inhabits mountain forests at altitudes up to 3000 m.

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© New Guinea Birds

Source: Birds of Papua New Guinea

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Trophic Strategy

All cassowaries live solitary, except for nesting period. Their activity falls within the early morning and late evening hours, when they gather food from the ground or from low branches. The main diet is fruits, mostly families Myrtaceae and Lauraceae. A diet is sometimes supplemented by insects, small vertebrates, and also by carrion occasionally.

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© New Guinea Birds

Source: Birds of Papua New Guinea

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Life History and Behavior

Behavior

Perception Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Reproduction

Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; oviparous

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Nesting season begins in the period from July to October, when the greatest abundance of fruits is available. Males occupy home-ranges 1-5 km2 before the breeding season, although not aggression towards other males was identified. Once the female enters the male ward, male court to her repeatedly until the female is gradually accepting him and may be accompanied. Later, male walks around the female with erect feathers on the back, and makes the ""bu-bu-bu"" sounds. Male calms the female down during copulation by sifting through the feathers on his back, head cleaning, etc. Cassowaries’ males have penis similarly to other runners.  After mating, the female stay in male’s territory until she lays 3-5 eggs into a nest (pre-prepared by male). Male consequently mate with another 2-3 females during the breeding season. Male incubates the eggs laid into his nest and takes care of the chicks. Incubation time is between 49-56 days. The male cares for the chicks for a period of 9 months. Juveniles mature in the third year of life.

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© New Guinea Birds

Source: Birds of Papua New Guinea

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Statistics of barcoding coverage

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLD) Stats
Specimen Records: 2
Specimens with Sequences: 5
Specimens with Barcodes: 2
Species: 1
Species With Barcodes: 1
Public Records: 2
Public Species: 1
Public BINs: 1
Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 (CC BY 3.0)

© Barcode of Life Data Systems

Source: Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLD)

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Barcode data

Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 (CC BY 3.0)

© Barcode of Life Data Systems

Source: Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLD)

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Traditional dancing decorations, string bags, bush-meat, eggs, chicks are kept in will ages as the source of proteins

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© New Guinea Birds

Source: Birds of Papua New Guinea

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Disclaimer

EOL content is automatically assembled from many different content providers. As a result, from time to time you may find pages on EOL that are confusing.

To request an improvement, please leave a comment on the page. Thank you!