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Vertebrate Characteristics

Chordates that possess a vertebral column.

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Flightless Birds

Student Exploration

Speed To Burn

The fastest land mammal is the cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) with a top speed of 70 MPH, the fastest land reptile in the spiny-tailed iguana (Ctenosaura similis) at 21 MPH. But what about the fastest land bird?

But what happens when an ostrich meets a cheetah? Well, sometimes this happens...

The ostrich (Struthio camelus) can be up to 9 ft. tall and weigh 350 lbs., the elephant bird of Madagascar Aepyornis maximus, which went extinct about 400 yrs ago, reached 10 ft.in height and weighed close to 880 lbs, Dinornis robustus (a species of Moa which went extinct 700 yrs ago in New Zealand) reached 12 ft. tall and weighed around 500 lbs. After watching the above video, imagine what it would have been like to face one of these species of bird. Then think about dinosaurs.

Go here to find out more about ostriches *http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/birds/ostrich/.

Watch this to see an ostrich defend its nest against all comers!

Extension Investigation

Use information in the resources below to answer these question

  1. How does an ostrich use its wings when it runs?
  2. Why is an ostrich's speed better suited to its native biomes of desert and savannah than a temperate deciduous forest?
  3. Why do ostriches bury their heads in the sand?
  4. Why do ostriches swallow stones?
  5. How is the ostriches extremely long intestines beneficial in its native biomes?

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