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rhea (in zoology)

rhea (rē´ə), common name for a South American bird of the family Rheidae, which is related to the ostrich. Weighing from 44 to 55 lb (20–25 kg) and standing up to 60 in. (152 cm) tall, the rhea is slightly smaller than the ostrich and lacks that bird's extravagant plumelike tail feathers. The rhea also differs from the unrelated ostrich in structure of the palate, pelvis, and foot. It is yellow and gray above, with a black head and dirty-white underside. The greater, or common, rhea (Rhea americana) is found from northeastern Brazil to Argentina. The somewhat smaller lesser, or Darwin's, rhea (Pterocnemia pennata) occurs from Patagonia to the high Andes. The rhea is typically a creature of the pampas and savannas and may often be found feeding in mixed herds along with cattle or guanaco, occupying an ecological niche similar to that of the ostrich and the zebra of Africa. Rheas feed on several kinds of plants, insects, and small vertebrates. While the old males tend to stay solitary, the young male is aggressive and highly polygamous, gathering about itself from three to seven hens. The nest is built in a dry and protected area, preferably near water. The male excavates a shallow hole with his bill, lines it with dry vegetable matter, and assumes all the incubation duties. He may incubate as many as 50 eggs, produced by a number of females over a period of weeks. Incubation takes from 35 to 40 days. The eggs, lemon yellow when laid, or greenish in the case of Darwin's rhea, weigh up to 2 lb (almost 1 kg) each. When hatched, the chicks are gray with darker stripes. The rhea is one of the flat-breastboned, or ratite, flightless birds. Rheas are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Aves, order Struthioniformes, family Rheidae.

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rhea

rhe·a / ˈrēə/ • n. a large flightless bird of South American grasslands, resembling a small ostrich, with grayish-brown plumage. • Family Rheidae: two species, Rhea americana and Pterocnemia pennata.

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rhea

rhea Either of two species of large, brownish, flightless, fast-running South American birds resembling a small ostrich. They feed mostly on vegetation and insects. Height: to 1.5m (5ft). Family Rheidae.

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rhea

rhea three-toed ostrich of S. America. XIX. arbitrary use of the myth. female name L. Rhea, Gr. Rhéā.

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rhea

rheaadhere, Agadir, appear, arrear, auctioneer, austere, balladeer, bandolier, Bashkir, beer, besmear, bier, blear, bombardier, brigadier, buccaneer, cameleer, career, cashier, cavalier, chandelier, charioteer, cheer, chevalier, chiffonier, clavier, clear, Coetzee, cohere, commandeer, conventioneer, Cordelier, corsetière, Crimea, dear, deer, diarrhoea (US diarrhea), domineer, Dorothea, drear, ear, electioneer, emir, endear, engineer, fear, fleer, Freer, fusilier, gadgeteer, Galatea, gazetteer, gear, gondolier, gonorrhoea (US gonorrhea), Greer, grenadier, hear, here, Hosea, idea, interfere, Izmir, jeer, Judaea, Kashmir, Keir, kir, Korea, Lear, leer, Maria, marketeer, Medea, Meir, Melilla, mere, Mia, Mir, mishear, mountaineer, muleteer, musketeer, mutineer, near, orienteer, pamphleteer, panacea, paneer, peer, persevere, pier, Pierre, pioneer, pistoleer, privateer, profiteer, puppeteer, queer, racketeer, ratafia, rear, revere, rhea, rocketeer, Sapir, scrutineer, sear, seer, sere, severe, Shamir, shear, sheer, sincere, smear, sneer, sonneteer, souvenir, spear, sphere, steer, stere, summiteer, Tangier, tear, tier, Trier, Tyr, veer, veneer, Vere, Vermeer, vizier, volunteer, Wear, weir, we're, year, Zaïre

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Rhea

Rhea (Saturn V) One of the major satellites of Saturn, with a radius of 764 km; mass 23.1 × 1020 kg; mean density 1240 kg/m3; visual albedo 0.7. It was discovered in 1672 by G. D. Cassini.

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Rhea

Rhea in Greek mythology, one of the Titans, wife of Cronus and mother of Zeus, Demeter, Poseidon, Hera, and Hades. Frightened of betrayal by their children, Cronus ate them; Rhea rescued Zeus from this fate by hiding him and giving Cronus a stone wrapped in blankets instead.

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Rhea

Rhe·a / rēə/ 1. Greek Mythol. one of the Titans, wife of Cronus and mother of Zeus, Demeter, Poseidon, Hera, and Hades. Frightened of betrayal by their children, Cronus ate them; Rhea rescued Zeus from this fate by hiding him and giving Cronus a stone wrapped in blankets instead. 2. Astron. a satellite of Saturn, the fourteenth closest to the planet, discovered by Cassini in 1672, and having a diameter of 951 miles (1,530 km).

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Rhea

Rhea

Rhea, a flightless bird smaller than the ostrich. The two species of rhea are the only examples of ratites (running birds with a flat-rather than keel-shaped breastbone) in the New World. The greater rhea (R. americana) lives on the Pampa (fertile, grassy plain) that runs from Paraguay to Patagonia. It is an herbivorous bird that lives in flocks of about twenty or so and breeds polygamously. The females in the harem lay their eggs in a communal nest that is incubated by the lone male. The Puna rhea (R. pennata) is found in Peru, Bolivia, and Chile. In parts of its range it is considered an endangered species because of excessive hunting for its meat and skin (mostly exported to Japan and the United States) and egg poaching. The rhea is also commonly known in Bolivia as the piyo, in Quechua-speaking regions as the surí, in the Guaraní language as ñandú guasú ("big spider," referring to the spread of the bird's feathers when they run), and the ema in Portuguese.

See alsoPampa .

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Rodolphe Meyer De Schauensee, The Species of Birds of South America (1966).

Additional Bibliography

Folch, A. "Rheidai/Rhea." In vol. 1 of Handbook of the Birds of the World, edited by Josep del Hoyo, Andrew Elliot, Jordi Sargatal, José Cabot et al. Barcelona: Lynx Edicions, 1992.

                                      Sheila L. Hooker

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