Chordates • Earth.com

Common ostrich

(Struthio camelus)

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Description

The common ostrich (Struthio camelus), or simply ostrich, is a species of flightless bird native to certain large areas of Africa and is the largest living bird species. It is one of two extant species of ostriches, the only living members of the genus Struthio in the ratite order of birds. The other is the Somali ostrich (Struthio molybdophanes), which was recognized as a distinct species by BirdLife International in 2014 having been previously considered a very distinctive subspecies of ostrich. The common ostrich belongs to the order Struthioniformes. Struthioniformes previously contained all the ratites, such as the kiwis, emus, rheas, and cassowaries. However, recent genetic analysis has found that the group is not monophyletic, as it is paraphyletic with respect to the tinamous, so the ostriches are now classified as the only members of the order. Phylogenetic studies have shown that it is the sister group to all other members of Palaeognathae and thus the flighted tinamous are the sister group to the extinct moa. It is distinctive in its appearance, with a long neck and legs, and can run for a long time at a speed of 55 km/h (34 mph) with short bursts up to about 70 km/h (40 mph), the fastest land speed of any bird. The common ostrich is the largest living species of bird and lays the largest eggs of any living bird (the extinct elephant birds of Madagascar and the giant moa of New Zealand laid larger eggs). The common ostrich's diet consists mainly of plant matter, though it also eats invertebrates and small reptiles. It lives in nomadic groups of 5 to 50 birds. When threatened, the ostrich will either hide itself by lying flat against the ground or run away. If cornered, it can attack with a kick of its powerful legs. Mating patterns differ by geographical region, but territorial males fight for a harem of two to seven females. The common ostrich is farmed around the world, particularly for its feathers, which are decorative and are also used as feather dusters. Its skin is used for leather products and its meat is marketed commercially, with its leanness a common marketing point. Common ostriches usually weigh from 63 to 145 kilograms (139–320 lb), or as much as one to two adult humans. The Masai ostriches of East Africa (S. c. massaicus) average 115 kg (254 lb) in males and 100 kg (220 lb) in females, while the nominate subspecies, the North African ostrich (S. c. camelus), was found to average 111 kg (245 lb) in unsexed adults.

Taxonomic tree:

Domain:
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum:
Class: Aves
Order:Struthioniformes
Family:Struthionidae
Genus:Struthio
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