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Temporal range: Miocene to present
The Great Tinamou, Tinamus major
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Superorder: Palaeognathae
Order: Tinamiformes
Huxley, 1872
Family: Tinamidae
G.R. Gray, 1840
2 Subfamily, 9 Genera, 47 Species, 127 Subspecies

The tinamous are a family comprising 47 species of birds found in Central and South America. One of the most ancient living groups of bird, they are related to the ratites. Generally ground dwelling, they are found in a range of habitats.

Taxonomy and evolution

Of Gondwanan origin, tinamids are related to the ratites. Although the fossil record in South America is poor, the known tinamiform fossil record goes back 10 million years. Together with the ratites, they make up Palaeognathae ("old jaws"), while all other living birds are members of Neognathae ("new jaws"). Unlike the other palaeognaths, tinamids do have a keeled sternum. Like the other palaeognaths, they also have a distinctive palate (thin bony plate at top of mouth).[1]

Recent phylogenetic studies have shown tinamids as the sister group of Australasian/Oceanian ratites. Those are the (cassowaries, emus, and kiwi). South American ratites (rheas) and African ratites (ostriches) are also related, but more distantly.[2][3] Tinamids themselves were shown to be monophyletic.[3]


  1. Davies S.J.J.F. 2003. "Tinamous". in Hutchins, Michael (ed) Grzimek's Animal Life Encyclopedia. 2nd ed, section 8, Birds I: Tinamous and Ratites to Hoatzins. Farmington Hills, MI: Gale Group. 57–59. ISBN 0-7876-5784-0.
  2. Hackett, Shannon J.; et al. (2008-06-27). "A phylogenomic study of birds reveals their evolutionary history". Science 320 (5884): 1763–1768. doi:10.1126/science.1157704 . PMID 18583609 . Retrieved 2008-10-18.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Harshman, J.; et al. (2008-09-09). "Phylogenetic evidence for multiple losses of flight in Ratite birds". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (USA) 105 (36): 13462–13467. doi:10.1073/pnas.0803242105 . PMC 2533212 . PMID 18765814 . Retrieved 2008-10-17.