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How long have ostriches been on Earth?

Sent in by Lea Westwood, London

Ostriches are found roaming around the African savannah in herds, where they eat such things as lizards and insects. Though endemic to Africa, some of the oldest ostrich-like fossils to date are of a bird known as Palaeotis, a species from which it is currently thought modern ostriches may have evolved from. 

These fossils were found in central Europe in the 1930s and date from around the Middle Eocene, roughly 40 million years ago. Palaeotis is thought to be similar to a bustard in appearance and belonged to the genus Struthio, from which the ostrich is the only living member today.

Fossil records of modern ostriches and other members of the Struthio family date as far back as the Early Miocene, some 23-20 million years ago.

Ostriches are the world's largest living birds. They stand up to 2.75 metres tall and males can weigh 155 kg (more than 24 stone). Ostriches are flightless and have relatively small wings. With long legs, two toes and a large stride, it is of no surprise that ostriches can sprint up to 43 miles per hour and you certainly wouldn't want to upset one either, as their legs are extremely powerful and can belt out a formidable kick!

Another ostrich claim to fame, is the size of their eggs - 20 times bigger than those of a hen and the biggest laid by any bird.

Contrary to popular belief, ostriches do not bury their heads in the sand. Instead, as an act of defence, they make themselves less visible, by lowering their body and pressing their neck against the ground.

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