Many turkeys have been described from fossils.
Male Domestic Turkey
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. 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, became extinct recently enough to have been hunted by early human settlers 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.
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. In 2010, a team of scientists published a draft sequence of the domestic turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) genome.
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