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- noun Plural form of
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Older than the ancestors of the ducks and the buzzards, older than the birds that would become finches and flickers, chickens and crows, the paleognaths are thought to be the first of the still-living bird lineages to have diverged from the original bird lineage more than 100 million years ago.
The data strongly suggest that the ancestors of the paleognaths could fly and that flight was lost at least three separate times on three separate continents.
Cassowaries are members of a group of birds called paleognaths, literally “old jaw” because the palate is more primitive than that of other modern birds; paleognaths include the African ostrich, the South American rhea, the kiwi of New Zealand, and the Australian emu the species most closely related to the cassowary, as well as the extinct thousand-pound elephant bird of Madagascar and the many extinct species of moa in New Zealand, some thirteen feet tall, all entirely flightless.
The genetic information shows the flying tinamou is more closely related to paleognaths of Australia and the islands of New Zealand than to Africa’s ostriches and South America’s rheas.