Happy Thanksgiving! A turkey joins the LRT.

Updated Jun 29, 2021
with a new bird subset of the LRT after 500+ additional taxa;

When the turkey 
(genus: Meleagris gallopavo, Linneaus 1758; Fig. 1) is added to the large reptile tree (LRT, 1328 taxa) it nests at the base of the clade of chickens + peacocks and more derived taxa that include sparrows, stink birds and parrots.

Figure 1. Updated after 500+ taxa have been added to the LRT and the birds have been revised.

Many other bird cladograms
nest ducks with chickens creating the bogus clade: ‘Galloanserae.’ That is beyond logic given the gradual accumulation of traits documented in the LRT that widely separate ducks (water birds) from chickens (yard birds).

Worse yet,
the putative clade ‘Anseriformes‘ nests screamers with ducks.

Worse yet
Wikipedia reports, “The Anseriformes and the Galliformes (pheasants, etc.) are the most primitive neognathous birds, and should follow ratites and tinamous in bird classification systems. Together they belong to the Galloanserae.” In the LRT there are several clades of neognathus birds more primitive than the Galliformes.

Figure 1. The turkey (genus: Meleagris) in vivo, standing skeleton and skull.
Figure 1. The turkey (genus: Meleagris) in vivo, standing skeleton and skull.

Turkey ancestors
split from the rest of the chicken/sparrow/parrot clade sometime during the Cretaceous. That ancestor probably had the long running legs of extant ground-loving birds, like Fulica, the coot, and Megapodius the scrub fowl. No doubt the early turkey was leaner and more athletic than today’s big-breasted, highly-evolved and tasty Thanksgiving centerpieces.

The turkey’s species name, ‘gallopavo’ literally means:
“chicken-peacock”… which sort of makes sense! Just look at those tail feathers!

The sharp spur at mid-medial-metatarsus
could be a pedal digit zero. A related taxon, Eogranivora, appears to have a small pedal digit zero (Fig. 3). Or not.  Hard to tell. We’ve seen manual digit zero on screamers (Anhima), the basal oviraptorid, Limusaurus and other taxa.

Figure 3. Eogranivora metatarsus with overlooked pedal digit zero identified and enlarged.
Figure 3. Eogranivora metatarsus with overlooked pedal digit zero identified and enlarged (see inset). It is hard to see, appears at the edge of a crack and could be an illusion the color of bone. Confirmation or refutation is needed here. We’re seeing the inside of most of the bones here.

Linnaeus C 1758. Systema naturæ per regna tria naturæ, secundum classes, ordines, genera, species, cum characteribus, differentiis, synonymis, locis. Tomus I. Editio decima, reformata.


3 thoughts on “Happy Thanksgiving! A turkey joins the LRT.

  1. Quick correction and a couple of suggestions:

    1) It’s spelled currasow, not currasaw (on the phylogeny).
    2) Maybe try adding the ring-necked pheasant (another phasianid) and seeing where it nests in relation to the turkey?
    3) Just so the sampling is distributed nicely, what about one of the tragopan species? Skull photos are available for either Tragopan satyra or T. temminickii.

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