Are Cassowaries Dinosaurs Hiding in Plain Sight?

Written by AZ Animals Staff
Published: September 17, 2021
Written by AZ Animals Staff
Published: September 17, 2021


Dinosaurs still alive today? If you’ve seen a cassowary foot you might think so! Cassowaries are not dinosaurs, but they are one of the closest living relatives. Let’s dig into how cassowaries and dinosaurs are alike!

Are Cassowaries Dinosaurs?

Take a look at the picture in the tweet embedded below and blurt out the first word that comes to mind.

A dinosaur foot or something else?

If you thought this was some kind of dinosaur foot, you’re not alone! The picture is actually of a cassowary foot and was taken in 2019. It shows the distinctive 5 inch claw that grows on cassowary feet and their scaly legs which look similar to most representations of dinosaurs.

The closest relative of dinosaurs are birds. Both dinosaurs and birds have extremely lightweight bones. In the case of dinosaurs this helped them becomes extremely large, in the case of birds it helped them fly.

Cassowary Speed - Flightless Birds
Flightless birds ranging from the elephant bird to the rhea.

Cassowaries are one of only about 60 flightless bird species. Even more rare is their size. While massive flightless birds like the elephant bird (which weighed up to 1,600 pounds) and moa (which weighed up to 550 pounds) recently roamed the earth, today very few remain.

In addition to the cassowary, flightless birds like ostriches, emus, and rheas can reach over 100 pounds.

Recent Dinosaur Discovery Looks Like a Cassowary

Cassowary Dinosaur - Extinct Dinosaur
An artisit’s rendering of the Corythoraptor jacobsi. (Image: Zhao Chuang)

Look at the image above and tell us what looks unique about this picture of cassowaries.

If you answered, “that’s not a picture of cassowaries,” you’re absolutely correct!

The above picture is taken from recently published scientific research on a new dinosaur species named Corythoraptor jacobsi. This artwork demonstrates how closely the species resembles modern cassowaries.

Cassowary Size - Cassowary on black background
A picture of a cassowary for comparison

Even more striking is the side by side comparison of the Corythoraptor‘s skeleton vs. a modern day cassowary skeleton.

On the image below images A and B show analysis of the newly discovered dinosaur’s skull. Picture C shows an artist’s rendering of what the dinosaur’s head would have looked like.

Compare this to image F, which shows a modern cassowary skull. It’s remarkably similar! The bottom 3 images compare the crest on the top of a cassowary’s skull to the crest on the extinct dinosaur. It shows that the materials are extremely similar!

A comparison of cassowary skeletons and a recently discovered dinosaur. [Source: Scientific Reports]

Ancient relatives of cassowaries are believed to have first evolved shortly after the extinction of the dinosaurs, about 60 million years ago. So while cassowaries are not directly related to this dinosaur, the discovery does shed light on how similar they are to some long lost dinosaur species!