from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition
- adj. Relating to or being any of a group of flightless birds having a flat breastbone without the keellike prominence characteristic of most flying birds.
- n. A ratite bird, such as the ostrich or emu.
from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License
- n. A bird of the order of Struthioniformes, a diverse group of large running, flightless birds, mostly extinct, but including the cassowary, elephant bird, emu, kiwi, moa, ostrich, rhea and tinamou
from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English
- adj. Of or pertaining to the Ratitæ.
from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia
- Raft-breasted, as a bird; having a flat breast-bone or sternum with no keel; having no keel, as a breast-bone; ecarinate; of or pertaining to the.
from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.
- n. flightless birds having flat breastbones lacking a keel for attachment of flight muscles: ostriches; cassowaries; emus; moas; rheas; kiwis; elephant birds
Given that a few other Eocene European tetrapods have been suggested to be particularly closely related to South American taxa (namely the ratite Palaeotis, the peradectine opossums and the supposed anteater Eurotamandua), Ameghinornis and Aenigmavis were thought to perhaps indicate that phorusrhacids had originated in Europe and later spread (via Africa) to South America (Peters & Storch 1993).
Palaeotis, a small ratite argued by some to be a stem rhea, has more recently been found to be outside of the clade that includes rheas, ostriches, cassowaries and emus.
The ostrich is an exception, a ratite that inhabits the African mainland.
But the ratite lineage in general, with its heritage of gigantism and flightlessness, is relictual on Australia, New Guinea, and New Zealand and was until recently on Madagascar, having held out in those places while long ago disappearing from the mainlands.
So the ratite lineage combines aspects of both endemism and relictualism—endemism at the level of species, relictualism at the level of the group.
Only a few naturalists of the last century came to grips with any of the ratite questions.
But the ratite family, from large ostriches to small kiwis, were thought to be the exception to this rule.
If you've no idea what a Great bustard is like, imagine a long-legged, long-necked omnivorous bird something like a cross between a crane and a small ratite ... or, look at the picture here.
This giant Moa (Dinornis giganteus) a member of the ratite family (the same family as the kiwi, emus and ostriches) and met its demise around the 13th century.
The findings are also consistent with living members of the ratite family, such as the kiwi, emu, and cassowary, in which the male is responsible for incubation.
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