What we’re reading. Well, eating, anyway.

Turkey

Speller C.F., Kemp B.M., Wyatt S.D., Monroe C., Lipe W.D., Arndt U.M., Yang D.Y. 2010. Ancient mitochondrial DNA analysis reveals complexity of indigenous North American turkey domestication. Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci. USA. 107:2807–12.

Although the cultural and nutritive importance of the turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) to precontact Native Americans and contem- porary people worldwide is clear, little is known about the domestication of this bird compared to other domesticates. Mitochondrial DNA analysis of 149 turkey bones and 29 coprolites from 38 archaeological sites (200 BC–AD 1800) reveals a unique domesticated breed in the precontact Southwestern United States. Phylogeographic analyses indicate that this domestic breed originated from outside the region, but rules out the South Mexican domestic turkey (Meleagris gallopavo gallopavo) as a progenitor. A strong genetic bottleneck within the Southwest turkeys also reflects intensive human selection and breeding. This study points to at least two occurrences of turkey domestication in precontact North America and illuminates the intensity and sophistication of New World animal breeding practices.

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About Jeremy Yoder

Jeremy Yoder is an Assistant Professor of Biology at California State University, Northridge. He also blogs at Denim and Tweed, and tweets under the handle @jbyoder.
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