†Autruchon Temminick 1840 fide Gray, 1841 (nomen nudum)
†Struthiolithus Brandt 1873
†Megaloscelornis Lydekker 1879
†Palaeostruthio Burchak-Abramovich 1953
Ostriches are large flightless birds of the genusStruthio in the orderStruthioniformes, part of the infra-class Palaeognathae, a diverse group of flightless birds also known as ratites that includes the emus, rheas, and kiwis. There are two living species of ostrich: the common ostrich and the Somali ostrich. They are native to Africa and lay the largest eggs of any living land animal. With the ability to run at 70 km/h (43.5 mph), they are the fastest birds on land. They are farmed worldwide, particularly for their feathers as they are used as decoration and feather dusters. Their skin is also used for leather products. Ostriches are notable for being the heaviest living birds.
The genus Struthio was first described by Carl Linnaeus in 1758. The genus was used by Linnaeus and other early taxonomists to include the emu, rhea, and cassowary, until they each were placed in their own genera. The Somali ostrich (Struthio molybdophanes) has recently become recognized as a separate species by most authorities, while others are still reviewing the evidence.
The earliest fossils of ostrich-like birds are Paleocene taxa from Europe.Palaeotis and Remiornis from the Middle Eocene and unspecified ratite remains are known from the Eocene and Oligocene of Europe and Africa. These may have been early relatives of the ostriches, but their status is questionable, and they may in fact represent multiple lineages of flightless paleognaths.
The earliest fossils from this genus are from the early Miocene (20–25 mya [million years ago]) and are from Africa, so it is proposed that they originated there. Then by the middle to late Miocene (5–13 mya) they had spread to Eurasia. By about 12 mya they had evolved into the larger size of which we are familiar. By this time they had spread to Mongolia and later southern Africa. While the relationship of the African fossil species is comparatively straightforward, many Asian species of ostrich have been described from fragmentary remains, and their interrelationships and how they relate to the African ostriches are confusing. In China, ostriches are known to have become extinct only around or even after the end of the last ice age; images of ostriches have been found there on prehistoric pottery and petroglyphs.
Struthio ostriches once co-existed with another lineage of flightless didactyl birds, the eogruids. Though Olson 1985 classified these birds as stem-ostriches, they until recently were universally considered to be related to cranes, any similarities being the result of convergent evolution. More recent analysis, however, has once again linked the ostriches to the eogruids. Competition from ostriches has been suggested to have caused the extinction of the eogruids, though this has never been tested and both groups do co-exist in some sites.
A male Somali ostrich in a Kenyansavanna, showing its blueish neck
In 2008, S. linxiaensis was transferred to the genus Orientornis. Three additional species, S. pannonicus, S. dmanisensis, and S. transcaucasicus, were transferred to the genus Pachystruthio in 2019. Several additional fossil forms are ichnotaxa (that is, classified according to the organism's trace fossils such as footprints rather than its body) and their association with those described from distinctive bones is contentious and in need of revision pending more good material.
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^Zelenkov, N. V.; Lavrov, A. V.; Startsev, D. B.; Vislobokova, I. A.; Lopatin, A. V. (2019). "A giant early Pleistocene bird from eastern Europe: unexpected component of terrestrial faunas at the time of early Homo arrival". Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology. 39 (2): e1605521. doi:10.1080/02724634.2019.1605521. S2CID198384367.
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Andersson, Johan Gunnar (1923). On the occurrence of fossil remains of Struthionidae in China. In: Essays on the cenozoic of northern China. Memoirs of the Geological Survey of China (Peking), Series A, No. 3, pp. 53–77. Peking, China: Geological Survey of China.
Andersson, Johan Gunnar (1943). "Researches into the prehistory of the Chinese". Bulletin of the Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities. 15: 1–300, plus 200 plates.
Davies, S. J. J. F. (2003). "Ostriches". In Hutchins, Michael (ed.). Birds I Tinamous and Ratites to Hoatzins. Grzimek's Animal Life Encyclopedia. Vol. 8 (2nd ed.). Farmington Hills, MI: Gale Group. p. 99. ISBN978-0-7876-5784-0.
Gill, F.; Donsker, D (2012). "Ratites". IOC World Bird List. WorldBirdNames.org. Retrieved 13 Jun 2012.
Janz, Lisa; et al. (2009). "Dating North Asian surface assemblages with ostrich eggshell: Implications for palaeoecology and extirpation". Journal of Archaeological Science. 36 (9): 1982–1989. doi:10.1016/j.jas.2009.05.012.