The REAL Reason why Ostriches Can’t Fly

Many think that the main reason as to why ostriches cannot fly is because of their massive weight; this is true. However, the mass extinction of the dinosaur population also heavily contributes to why the ostrich remains flightless. When dinosaurs ruled the world, their large body size, accompanied with rapid mating techniques, took up most of the space of their environment. And when they went extinct, there was A LOT of free land to be accounted for.

Because of all of this free land, many aerial animals (most importantly birds) began to adjust to land life. One these birds was the ostrich. As time passed, and evolution began to take its course, the ostrich began to gain in size and adapt to their “new” life. And as these birds got bigger, they began to lose the ability to fly. The common misconception of the ostrich is that its ancestor was also a flightless bird: THIS IS INCORRECT! The ancestor of the ostrich was in-fact a flying bird, however because of the aforementioned conditions it lost its ability to fly.

Ostrich

The ostrich did not only evolve in a way that made it lose its ability to fly. They in-fact forgot how to fly. This loss of knowledge can be contributed to one thing: evolution. This is the same reason why humans have a tailbone, but no tail. The tail is useless to the human species, but our ancestors (primates) had them.

The ostrich does in-fact have wings, however they use them in a different way. The animal is known for its rapid quickness. To maintain its balance and to help steer, the animal’s wings come in handy. Their wingspan is about seven feet wide, which actually helps them mate with females as well as provide shade for chicks! Overall, this quite the magnificent bird, and although it does not fly anymore, it can run as fast as 60 mph!

Sources:

“Birds: Ostrich.” Sandiegozoo.com. Web. 15 Oct. 2011. <http://www.sandiegozoo.org/animalbytes/t-ostrich.html>.

Choi, Charles Q. “Why Ostriches Can’t Fly.” LiveScience.com. 28 Jan. 2010. Web. 15 Oct. 2011. <http://www.livescience.com/8055-ostriches-fly.html>.

“The Ostrich.” Welcome to the CCEL | Christian Classics Ethereal Library. Web. 16 Oct. 2011. <http://www.ccel.org/c/cook/animals/h/webdoc20.htm>.

2 Comments

Lorena Barba posted on October 17, 2011 at 7:35 pm

I wonder if now that the availability of land for ostriches is much less (due to humans), they will start getting smaller and remembering how to fly again ;-)

Stephen Deschamps posted on October 17, 2011 at 9:53 pm

I always just assumed they couldn’t fly because of their weight. Thanks for sharing this little-known fact- maybe it will come in handy on Jeopardy someday.