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Turkey
Temporal range: Early Miocene to Recent
File:Meleagris gallopavo Wild Turkey.png
Male Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo
Scientific classification Red Pencil Icon
Unrecognized taxon (fix): Meleagris

A turkey is a large bird in the genus Meleagris. One species, Meleagris gallopavo, commonly known as the Wild Turkey, is native to the forests of North America. The domestic turkey is a descendant of this species. The other living species is Meleagris ocellata or the Ocellated Turkey, native to the forests of the Yucatán Peninsula. [1]

Turkeys are classed in the taxonomic order of Galliformes. Within this order they are relatives of the grouse family or subfamily. Males of both species have a distinctive fleshy wattle or protuberance that hangs from the top of the beak—called a snood in the Wild Turkey and its domestic descendants. They are among the largest birds in their ranges. As in many galliform species, the male (tom or gobbler) is larger and much more colorful than the female (hen).

History and naming

When Europeans first encountered turkeys on the American continent, they incorrectly identified the birds as a type of guineafowl (Numididae), also known as turkey fowl (or turkey hen and turkey cock), due to that bird's importation to Central Europe through Turkey. That name, shortened to just the name of the country, stuck as the name of the American bird.[2][3][4]

The confusion between these kinds of birds from related, but different, families is also reflected in the scientific name for the turkey genus: meleagris (Template:Polytonic) is Greek for guineafowl. Two major reasons why the name 'turkey fowl' stuck to Meleagris rather than to the Helmeted Guineafowl (Numida meleagris) were the genuine belief that the newly-discovered Americas were in fact a part of Asia, and the tendency during that time to attribute exotic animals and foods to a place that symbolized far-off, exotic lands.

Several other birds, which are sometimes called turkeys, are not particularly closely related: the Australian Brushturkey is a megapode, and the bird sometimes known as the "Australian Turkey" is the Australian Bustard, a gruiform. The bird sometimes called a Water Turkey is the Anhinga (Anhinga rufa), from the shape of its tail when the feathers are fully spread for drying.

Names given to a group of turkeys include colevey, rafter, gobble, and flock.[5]

Fossil record

Many turkeys have been described from fossils. The Meleagrididae are known from the Early Miocene (c. 23 mya) onwards, with the extinct genera Rhegminornis
Meleagris ocellata1

Male Ocellated Turkey, Meleagris ocellata

(Early Miocene of Bell, U.S.) and Proagriocharis (Kimball Late Miocene/Early Pliocene of Lime Creek, U.S.). The former is probably a basal turkey, the other a more contemporary bird not very similar to known turkeys; both were much smaller birds. A turkey fossil not assignable to genus but similar to Meleagris is known from the Late Miocene of Westmoreland County, Virginia.[1] In the modern genus Meleagris, a considerable number of species have been described, as turkey fossils are robust and fairly often found, and turkeys show great variation among individuals. Many of these supposed fossilized species are now considered junior synonyms. One, the well-documented California Turkey Meleagris californica,[6] became extinct recently enough to have been hunted by early human settlers[7] and it is believed its demise was due to the combined pressures of climate change at the end of the last glacial period and hunting.[8]

Turkeys known from fossils

  • Meleagris sp. (Early Pliocene of Bone Valley, U.S.)
  • Meleagris sp. (Late Pliocene of Macasphalt Shell Pit, U.S.)
  • Meleagris californica (Late Pleistocene of SW U.S.)—formerly Parapavo/Pavo
  • Meleagris crassipes (Late Pleistocene of SW North America)

Turkeys have been considered by many authorities to be their own family—the Meleagrididae—but a recent genomic analyses of a retrotransposon marker groups turkeys in the family Phasianidae.[9]

Footnotes

  1. ^ a b Donald Stanley Farner and James R. King (1971). Avian biology. Boston: Academic Press. ISBN 0122494083. 
  2. ^ Webster's II New College Dictionary. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 2005, ISBN 9780618396016, p. 1217
  3. ^ Andrew F. Smith: The Turkey: An American Story. University of Illinois Press 2006, ISBN 9780252031632, p. 17
  4. ^ "Why A Turkey Is Called A Turkey : Krulwich Wonders… : NPR". npr.org. Retrieved 30 September 2010. 
  5. ^ Collins English Dictionary
  6. ^ Formerly Parapavo californica and initially described as Pavo californica or "California Peacock"
  7. ^ Jack Broughton (1999). Resource depression and intensification during the late Holocene, San Francisco Bay: evidence from the Emeryville Shellmound vertebrate fauna. Berkeley: University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-09828-5. ; lay summary
  8. ^ Bochenski, Z. M., and K. E. Campbell, Jr. 2006. The extinct California Turkey, Meleagris californica, from Rancho La Brea: Comparative osteology and systematics. Contributions in Science, Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, Number 509:92 pp.
  9. ^ Jan, K.; Andreas, M.; Gennady, C.; Andrej, K.; Gerald, M.; Jürgen, B.; Jürgen, S. (2007). "Waves of genomic hitchhikers shed light on the evolution of gamebirds (Aves: Galliformes)". BMC Evolutionary Biology. 7: 190. PMC 2169234Freely accessible. PMID 17925025. doi:10.1186/1471-2148-7-190. Retrieved 2008-02-15.  Cite uses deprecated parameter |coauthors= (help)

References

  • Madge and McGowan. Pheasants, Partridges and Grouse. ISBN 0-7136-3966-0.
  • National Geographic Society (2002). Field Guide to the Birds of North America. Washington, D.C.: National Geographic Society. ISBN 0792268776.
  • Porter, W. F. (1994). "Family Meleagrididae (Turkeys)". In del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A. & Sargatal, J. eds. Handbook of the Birds of the World, Vol. 2. New World Vultures to Guineafowl. Barcelona: Lynx Edicions, pp. 364–375. ISBN 8487334156.
  • Shore, Randy (3 February 2010). "B.C. researchers carve into today's turkeys through DNA tracking".This link is dead. The Montréal Gazette (Canwest News Service).


Eurasian Spoonbill This article is part of Project Bird Genera, a All Birds project that aims to write comprehensive articles on each genus, including made-up genera.

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