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Can an Emu and an Ostrich Mate?

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A few times, we have seen animals of different species breed successfully. For instance, lions and tigers create ligers and tigons, and zebras and donkeys form zonkeys.

In all cases of successful animal hybridization, the species of the animals involved shared some similarities. So, since ostriches and emus share many similarities, can they breed?

Can an emu and ostrich mate?

Male emus and male ostriches have similar penises. So, they can possibly mate with the females of the other animal.

However, mating between these animals is unlikely to be viable. In other words, even if emus and ostriches interbreed, they will most likely yield no offspring.

You may be wondering why emus and ostriches cannot bear offspring even if they mate. Well, we’ve got the lowdown. Below, we discuss mating between emus and ostriches, their relationship, and more.

photo of emu and ostrich

Can an Emu and Ostrich Mate?

Both male emus and male ostriches have lymphatic penises – an uncommon feature in birds. So, it reasons that they might be able to copulate with females of each other’s species. In other words, male emus can possibly mate with female ostriches and vice-versa.

But when you consider the size and location differences between both species, sexual encounters between them are not very likely.

Even if emus and ostriches get to somehow mate, they are unlikely to bear offspring. This is so because emus and ostriches are not so close on a genetic level.

While emus and ostriches share many similarities, they belong to different families and orders. Emus belong to the Casuariidae family (Casuariiformes order), while ostriches belong to the Struthionidae family (Struthioniformes order). And interfamilial/inter order hybrids (offspring of animals from different families) are extremely rare.

Ordinarily, viable embryos are typically formed when animals of the same species mate. When animals of different species mate, the chances of having viable embryos drop. Then when animals from dissimilar genera breed, the likelihood of having embryos that can grow is even lower.

Basically, as you move up the taxonomical structure for animals, the chances of having viable embryos between animals from different hierarchies drop massively.

In summary, emus and ostriches are unlikely to mate. But even if they do mate, their chances of having offspring are infinitesimal.

emus in the field

Are They Related?

Emus and ostriches are related because they belong to a diverse group of birds called ratites. Ratites are birds that have flat breastbones. Their breastbones do not have the ridge-shaped part called the keel. Hence, the flightlessness of both birds.

Because they are both ratites, emus and ostriches are usually called cousins. But as we already mentioned, when it comes to genetics, both birds might not be as related as they seem.

Similarities Between Emus and Ostriches

Still, we should mention that emus and ostriches share many characteristics – physical and behavioral. Some of them are stated below:

  • Both emus and ostriches have long, featherless necks.
  • Both birds have wide eyes, and their eyes are bigger than their brains.
  • Both animals are flightless because their breastbones have no keels.
  • Emus and ostriches have retrogressed wing feathers.
  • Emus and ostriches are super fast. Their strong, long legs are known to burst into frequent, long strides when they run, giving them explosive speed.
  • Emus and ostriches are polygamous. But the polygamy of emus and ostriches differs.
  • The shells of both birds’ eggs are pretty thick. So, their hatchlings develop faster than other birds.
  • Male emus and male ostriches incubate eggs. However, the pattern/process of incubation differs in both species.
  • Both birds lay their eggs in the winter months.
  • Both have strides longer than the height of an average human.
mother ostrich with her babies looking for food

Difference Between Emu and Ostrich Eggs

We have hinted multiple times already that emus and ostriches have some dissimilarities. One of the primary differences between both supersized birds is their eggs.

Emu eggs and ostriches eggs have a couple of differences between them. Some of these differences include the following:

Size

Ostrich eggs are larger than emu eggs, as expected.

On average, ostrich eggs are 5.9 inches long and 5.1 inches wide. On the other hand, the average emu eggs are 5.1 inches long and 3.5 inches wide. Ostrich eggs are almost twice the size of emu eggs.

Also, while the average ostrich egg weighs over 3 pounds, the average emu egg is only around 1.5 pounds. The said features make ostrich eggs the largest worldwide.

Compared to chicken eggs, one ostrich egg equals up to 24 chicken eggs. Contrarily, one emu egg is equivalent to 10 chicken eggs.

Color

Emu eggs are colored avocado-green. Ostrich eggs, on the other hand, are light beige.

Laying Rate

On average, emus lay around 20 to 30 eggs per breeding season. Ostriches, on the other hand, lay about 10-15 eggs.

Incubation Period

The average incubation period for ostrich eggs is 42 days. But for emu eggs, it is 54 days.

collage photo of emu and ostrich

13 Differences Between Emus and Ostriches

Besides the differences in their eggs, emus and ostriches are different in many other ways. Some of the differences between emus and ostriches are stated below:

  • Both emus and ostriches are polygamous. However, female emus and male ostriches are the actual polygamists. After laying eggs for a male emu, female emus typically leave the territory in search of a new mate. Male ostriches, on the other hand, gather multiple females (typically 6 to 7) in their flock.
  • Although male emus and male ostriches incubate eggs, male emus sit longer. Male and female ostriches take turns to sit on the eggs; the female sits in the day, and the male sits at night. For emus, the males alone sit throughout the incubation period.
  • Ostriches are about 3 times the size of emus. While ostriches can become as heavy as 220-350 pounds, the average emu is typically around 90-150 pounds.

Also, while ostriches can be as tall as 7-9 feet, emus are typically around 5.5-6 feet tall.

  • Ostriches become sexually mature earlier than emus. At age 2 to 3, ostriches become sexually mature, while emus have to wait 1 to 2 years longer.
  • While both birds are fast, ostriches are faster. Ostriches can run as fast as 45 mph. But emus only do around 30 mph.
  • Ostriches have longer strides than emus. Ostriches can cover 10 to 16 feet per stride. Emus, on the other hand, cover about 9 feet per stride.
  • Ostriches are typically strict herbivores (they may eat insects sometimes). On the contrary, emus are usually omnivores.
  • Ostriches are natively found in Africa, while emus live in Australia only.
  • Emus have more toes than ostriches. While ostriches have 2 toes, emus have 3.
  • While both birds have vestigial wings, the wings of an ostrich are way larger than those of an emu.
  • Male and female emus have brown feathers. So, it is typically difficult to differentiate them except during breeding season. Ostriches, on the other hand, can be readily distinguished. Female ostriches have brown feathers, while the males have black & white feathers.
  • The eyes of ostriches are larger than those of emus. In fact, ostriches have the biggest eyes amongst land vertebrates.
  • Ostriches are primarily reared for their feathers. On the contrary, emus are raised for oil, meat, and leather.

Summary

While male emus and male ostriches have similar sex organs, it is unlikely that either animal would mate with the female of the other. But even if somehow ostriches and emus breed, they are extremely unlikely to produce offspring.

Ostriches and emus might both be ratites, but they are not very close genetically. So, the chances of them having viable embryos are low.

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