Article ID: CBB639031534

History of the crested turkey, a rare variant of the domesticated turkey (Meleagris gallopavo gallopavo) (2023)


In 1919, the famous Dutch poultry judge Cornelis van Gink (1890–1968) was aware of the existence of crested turkeys. Was this bird a natural rarity, variation or mutation? A search through historical records and published works yielded very few references to crested turkeys. From the financial accounts of the Great Condé in 1679 to pictures in books and journals of the eighteenth and nineteenth century in England and America, from a mounted specimen in Parma to a first photograph in 1938 in Newsweek, the beauty and rareness of this bird is evident. Attempts to breed crested turkeys were unsuccessful. In the nineteenth century William Bernhardt Tegetmeier (1816–1912), editor of The Field, had a major interest in these turkeys and together with Charles Darwin (1809–1882) studied and described skull deformations associated with well-known and common crested breeds of chickens. Deformation of the skull was also observed in the mounted specimen of the crested turkey preserved in Parma, Italy. Genetic analyses of crested poultry indicate that a mutation (autosomal incompletely dominant) in the crest gene is responsible for this phenotype. The mutation for crest formation with additional skull deformation might be responsible for some in ovo lethality or poor hatching which could explain the failure or difficulty in breeding this phenotype. In conclusion, all data indicate that the crested turkey is a mutation of the domestic turkey Meleagris gallopavo gallopavo and does not justify a new species or subspecies name.

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Authors & Contributors
Birkhead, Tim R.
Karl Schulze-Hagen
Bruce, Murray D.
Brunner, Bernd
Davis, William E.
Dean, W. R. J.
Archives of Natural History
Centaurus: International Magazine of the History of Mathematics, Science, and Technology
Journal of the History of Biology
Journal of the History of Collections
Scientia Canadensis: Journal of the History of Canadian Science, Technology, and Medicine
Oxford University Press
Nuttall Ornithological Club
Basic Books
Greystone Books
Princeton University Press
Knesebeck Verlag
Natural history
Classification in biology
Collectors and collecting
Human-animal relationships
Darwin, Charles Robert
Archibald, George
Audubon, John James
Baudin, Nicolas
Brooks, Allan Cyril
Time Periods
19th century
20th century, early
20th century
18th century
20th century, late
Great Britain
Northern Ireland
Central Europe

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