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Phantoms of the Rainforest The genus Casuarius. Mathurin Jacques Brisson Born: April 30 th, 1723 Died: June 23 rd,1806.

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Presentation on theme: "Phantoms of the Rainforest The genus Casuarius. Mathurin Jacques Brisson Born: April 30 th, 1723 Died: June 23 rd,1806."— Presentation transcript:

1 Phantoms of the Rainforest The genus Casuarius

2 Mathurin Jacques Brisson Born: April 30 th, 1723 Died: June 23 rd,1806

3 Nomenclature Emeu Kesuari or Suwari Dromaius – fleet of foot Casuarius – chance, fortune Seram Cassowary Southern Cassowary

4 Cornelius Houtmann Java 1596 Amsterdam 1597 Clusius 1605

5 She was a phantom of delight when she first gleamed upon my sight A lovely apparition sent to be a moment’s ornament





10 Common ancestors 110 mya Ratites and Tinamous diverge 90 mya Emuaries diverge from Ostrich/Rhea line 80 mya Emuaries diverge from Moas 75 mya Ostrich and Rhea diverge


12 Recent events 45 mya Emuaries and Kiwis diverge 25 mya Cassowaries and Emus diverge 1 mya New Guinea complete 8 kya Last AUS/NG landbridge ends











23 Casuarius casuarius 20 named subspecies





28 Casuarius unappendiculatus 12 named subspecies





33 Casuarius bennetti 16 named subspecies





38 Species distribution

39 Next to nothing Lack of information about unappendiculatus Joan Bentrupperbaumer – C. c. johnsoni Cliff & Dawn Frith – C. c. johnsoni Crome & Moore – C. c. johnsoni Andy Mack – C. bennetti Helen Fortune Hopkins – C. bennetti

40 Physiology Ancestors flew Pneumatic bones Rudimentary wing No keeled sternum Three toes Palaeognathic pallet Casque


42 Feathers & Pterylosis Double feather unique to Cassowary and Emu 7 remiges, 5 secondaries and 2 metacarpals (Gadow, 1888) 6 spines Claw Apteria under wing and elsewhere




46 Biology Precocial Monotypic Male alone sits on eggs, hatches and cares for young Female is probably often polyandrous Omnivorous Adult at 3 years Can live about 30 years, record is 38 years

47 Size Casuarius casuarius – 1.4 to 1.7m Casuarius unappendiculatus – 1.5 to 1.8m Casuarius bennetti – 1.0 to 1.4m



50 Precocial

51 Chick



54 Feeding habits Mainly vegetarian Fruits, seeds, leaves and grasses Will pick through own droppings Varied and opportunistic feeder on live insects, crustacea, reptiles, small mammals and birds. Might eat carrion

55 Behaviour Very shy and often takes headlong flight. Can easily jump own height. Dangerous when cornered and when defending territory or young. Swims very well. Makes deep booming sound during mating display and when taking aggressive pose.

56 How dangerous are they? Cassowaries will not attack for no reason. But they can be territorial, very defensive of their young or be expecting food if people have been doing the wrong thing by feeding them and there is quite a list of people having been chased, charged, kicked, pushed, pecked, jumped on, and head-butted. Statistics show that most cassowary attacks were actually self defence, they are quite capable of killing dogs by gutting them with their sharp claws on their huge feet and have even been rumoured to have killed small horses.

57 Mossman - April 1926 Cassowaries are among the very few birds that can kill a person but the only time on record that happened was in April 1926 when some boys were hunting a Cassowary near Mossman, North Queensland. The Cassowary turned and chased the boys and one of them, 16 year old Phillip McClean, fell over and got his jugular vein on his neck slashed open by the sharp claw on the cassowary's foot. *Tales

58 Ecology No natural predators except man Rainforest habitat, but often ventures outside (in search of food?) Symbiosis: At least partly responsible for the maintenance of the forest through seed dispersal Range size varies according to time of year

59 Cairns, Queensland

60 Queensland

61 Papua New Guinea Highlands

62 Some of the food plants known from Queensland 30 species of trees 3 Palms 3 Shrubs & herbs 2 Vines 4 Ground cover plants

63 Food seeds identified in Casuarius bennetti dung samples Podocarpaceae Ericaceae Myrsinaceae Myrtaceae Rosaceae Rubiaceae Rutaceae


65 "the excrement of the Cassowary looks like that of a horse.“ Lumholtz, 1889

66 The Cassowary in culture Inseparable element in native culture Diverse linguistic element Important religious role Economic role

67 The Cassowary as a source of ornaments, tools and weapons





72 Linguistics Over 600 different languages in New Guinea. 600 different names for the Cassowary? Malay influence Indonesian influence

73 Religion/cultural beliefs Suangi - witchcraft & sorcery Adat – customs & beliefs Women had superior powers Cassowary (good) and snake (bad) Mother Cassowary

74 Trade Hunting for food etc. Pets for the pot Barter at local level Regional trade – Tribute 1375 to China

75 Cultural side effects Native plays and short stories Poetry Paintings & drawings Zoo & museum exhibits







82 Threats Habitat destruction and fragmentation Uncontrolled hunting Introduction of foreign species Road accidents and traps

83 Captive Cassowaries Historical breeding records Current captive population Huge bias towards unknown origin and Casuarius casuarius Breeding success minimal F2 exists but …….. Uncertain value for conservation purposes



86 Captive breeding experience April to September favoured months Each egg must be separately fertilised Eggs laid at two or three day intervals Clutch size of 3 – 4 eggs Incubation lasts 50 – 54 days Incubation at 36.1 C to 36.4 C Wet bulb 27.3 C – 28.9 C with 65% humidity Chicks hatch asynchronously Hatch rate is low

87 Conservation measures Queensland Papua New Guinea Indonesia Ex-situ programmes More inter-governmental action


89 Future action needed More field observation DNA Establish population sizes & ranges Education Cooperation with stakeholders to give effective protection

90 Every exit is an entrance somewhere else Thank you for your attention!

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