Cassowary casque: what is it made of?

What is the Cassowary casque made of?

The Cassowary (Casuarius casuarius) is a large flightless bird with a brown, horn-like or helmet-like casque on the top of its head. 

The casque measures 13-17 centimetres (5-7 inches) tall. 

Southern Cassowary

It is a horny growth, made from keratin. The rhino’s horn is also made from keratin, and so are human fingernails and toe nails. The casque looks hard, but it can bend slightly without breaking. Inside the sheath, its bony core has a thin, honeycomb-like shell (2-3 mm thick) and an air-filled space. 

Scientists don’t know a lot about the Cassowary casque, but its function might be to attract a mate, or as a weapon when defending itself, or to help it dig or forage for food in the ground. Darren Naish did some research on the Cassowary casque, published in the Scientific American in 2015. 

The Southern Cassowary, also known as the Double-Wattled Cassowary, or the Australian Cassowary (Casuarius casuarius), the Single-Wattled Cassowary or Northern Cassowary (Casuarius unappendiculatus), and the Dwarf Cassowary (Casuarius bennetti) are ratites, related to the emu, ostrich, kiwi, and the rhea. 

It has stiff, bristly black feathers, a blue face and neck, red on the cape and two red wattles hanging down around its throat. Its feet have three toes with one long claw on each foot. 

It measures 127-170 centimetres (50-67 inches) tall.  

It is native to north-eastern Australia, New Guinea, and Indonesia. It prefers tropical rain forests or mangrove regions, where it feeds on fallen fruit on the forest floor. It also eats fungi, and some insects and small vertebrates, such as worms. 

The male builds a nest on the ground out of plant material. The female lays 3-4 green eggs, but the male sits on them until they hatch. The eggs are large, measuring 13 centimetres (5 inches) long. The male also takes care of the chicks. The female does not look after her chicks. 

Southern Cassowary
Southern Cassowary

Location of photographs: Paris, France

Photographer: Martina Nicolls


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