The last six or seven caudal vertebrae coalesce into the pygostyle, an upright blade which carries the rectrices.
Such a pygostyle is absent in Archaeopteryx, Hesperornis, Tinami and Ratitae, but it occurs individually in old specimens of the ostrich and the kiwi.
Caudal vertebrae more than thirteen, without a pygostyle, but with about twelve pairs of rectrices.
A diagnosis covering all the Ratitae (struthio, rhea, casuarius, dromaeus, apteryx and the allied fossils dinornis and aepyornis) would be as follows - (i) terrestrial birds without keel to the sternum, absolutely flightless; (ii) quadrate bone with a single proximal articulating knob; (iii) coracoid and scapula fused together and forming an open angle; (iv) normally without a pygostyle; (v) with an incisura ischiadica; (vi) rhamphotheca compound; (vii) without apteria or bare spaces in the plumage; (viii) with a complete copulatory organ, moved by skeletal muscles.
However, the fact that various recent birds possess the same kind of caudal skeleton, likewise without a pygostyle, although reduced to at least 13 vertebrae, shows that the two terms do not express a fundamental difference.