Have you noticed how impossible it is to skip the steps in the evolution of everything?
We like to think we make huge leaps, but really, it’s a series of steps. Sometimes two steps forward, one step back.
Meet a step, somewhere between dinosaurs and hummingbirds: the cassowary.
Cassowaries are close relatives of the ostriches, emus, and kiwis, and like their kin, they are flightless. In fact, cassowaries have tiny vestigial wings that are barely recognizable as wings, ending in long sharp claw-like spikes.
Their brightly colored heads, more skin than feathers, add to the other-worldliness of these rare creatures.
To my mind, they are reminiscent of the predatory Velociraptors from the 1993 movie Jurassic Park. This enormous bird, 6 feet tall (two meters) seems more like a missing link than something we might find pecking away in a barnyard.
Cassowaries can weigh 125-pounds and they have dangerous claws on their feet just as the dinosaurs in the family called Dromaeosaurids. And like their ancestors, cassowaries will sometimes jump at an attacker feet-first, slashing through the air with their muscular legs.
Here’s a great scale chart to help us imagine the connections between dinosaurs from 65 million years ago, and the creature we are celebrating today as a wonder of nature:
When you look at that chart, it seems like cassowaries would be a likely outcome of a trajectory from that line of dinosaurs.
But unlike their dinosaur cousins, cassowaries mainly eat fruit and mushrooms and only rarely pick at a dead animal they might come across in the forests where they live in Northeastern Australia, New Guinea, and some small islands.
So now let’s get to know this modern bird…
Remarkably fun science there, huh?
If you’d like to follow this line of thinking a bit more, we have two great articles that will extend your knowledge in several directions from here.
Check these out!
So there is our excursion into a little-known corner of the animal world! If you just can’t get enough of this sort of thing, check out our animal category by clicking the button below!
Meanwhile, stay open, curious and hopeful!
~ Dr. Lynda
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