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Cladus: Eukaryota
Supergroup: Opisthokonta
Regnum: Animalia
Subregnum: Eumetazoa
Cladus: Bilateria
Cladus: Nephrozoa
Cladus: Deuterostomia
Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Infraphylum: Gnathostomata
Superclassis: Tetrapoda
Classis: Aves
Subclassis: Carinatae
Infraclassis: Neornithes
Parvclassis: Neognathae
Ordo: Galliformes
Familia: Phasianidae
Subfamilia: Meleagridinae
Genus: Meleagris
Species: M. gallopavo - M. ocellata


Meleagris Linnaeus, 1758


Systema Naturae ed.10 p.156

Vernacular names
Česky: Krocan
Deutsch: Truthühner
English: Turkeys
Português: Peru
Vèneto: Pito

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. There are several extinct species dating from as far back as 23 million years ago.[1]

Turkeys are classed in the taxonomic order of Galliformes. Within this order they are relatives of the grouse family or subfamily. Turkeys have a distinctive fleshy wattle that hangs from the underside of the beak, and a fleshy protuberance that hangs from the top of its beak — called a snood. With wingspans of 1.0–1.8 metres (3.3–5.9 ft), the turkeys are by far the largest birds in the open forests in which they live. 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 the birds' 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 (μελεαγρίς) is Greek for guineafowl. Two major reasons why the name 'turkey fowl' stuck to Meleagris rather than to the guinea fowl (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. (The Ottoman Empire, where Turkey was located, represented the exotic East.)[original research?]

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

The domesticated turkey is attributed to Aztec agriculture, and originated from the South Mexican subspecies M.g. gallopavo found in the area bounded by the present states of Jalisco, Guerrero, and Veracruz.[5]

Names given to a group of turkeys include rafter, gobble, and flock.[6]

Wild North American Male Turkey in Atlanta, Georgia

While large domesticated turkeys are generally unable to fly, smaller, lighter domesticated turkeys known as "heritage turkeys" and "wild turkeys" can fly. In domesticated turkeys, the ability to fly depends directly on weight, while even heavy adult wild turkeys can fly well enough to avoid predators by taking off and flying up to 100 yards (90 m) and perching in tree branches. Turkey poults (goblets) cannot fly for the first two weeks after hatching.

Fossil record
Turkey in Portugal

Many turkeys have been described from fossils. The Meleagrididae are known from the Early Miocene (c. 23 mya) onwards, with the extinct genera Rhegminornis (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,[7] became extinct recently enough to have been hunted by early human settlers[8] 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.[9] The modern species and the California Turkey seem to have diverged approximately one million years ago.

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.[10]


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. http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=97541602. Retrieved 30 September 2010.
5. ^ C. Michael Hogan. 2008. Wild turkey: Meleagris gallopavo, GlobalTwitcher.com, ed. N. Stromberg
6. ^ Collins English Dictionary
7. ^ Formerly Parapavo californica and initially described as Pavo californica or "California Peacock"
8. ^ 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
9. ^ 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.
10. ^ 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. doi:10.1186/1471-2148-7-190. PMC 2169234. PMID 17925025. http://www.doaj.org/doaj?func=abstract&id=242693. Retrieved 2008-02-15.


* Madge and McGowan, Pheasants, Partridges and Grouse ISBN 0-7136-3966-0
* "National Geographic" Field Guide to the Birds of North America ISBN 0792268776
* Porter, W. F. (1994). Family Meleagrididae (Turkeys). Pp. 364–375 in; del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A. & Sargatal, J. eds. Handbook of the Birds of the World, Vol. 2. New World Vultures to Guineafowl. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. ISBN 8487334156
* B.C. researchers carve into today's turkeys through DNA tracking

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Source: Wikipedia, Wikispecies: All text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License