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Turkeys vs peafowl, the great debate

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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Photo by Darren Naish.

Galliforms – gamebirds – are among the most spectacularly flamboyant of birds; the males of many lineages are provided with an abundance of elaborate display structures. I’ve written about turkeys and their snoods, wattles, caruncles and showy feathers before. I like the photo above because it depicts two of the showiest gamebirds – Meleagris gallopavo (domestic turkey) and Pavo cristatus (Indian peacock) – together. Turkeys and peafowl are not especially close relatives, or are they? We have conflicting trees.

Peafowl supposedly belong together with the Congo peacock (Afropavo congensis), argus pheasants (Argusianus and Rheinardia) and peacock-pheasants (Polyplectron) in a group typically called Pavoninae. You can understand why these birds are usually regarded as close relatives: they share feathery head crests and gigantic, showy wing and tail covert feathers, marked with ocelli. Behaviourally, they’re birds where the males are polygonous or promiscuous and play no role in parental care. As always, these generalisations don’t go for all members of the group. Some peacock-pheasants (like the Sumatran peacock-pheasant Po. chalcurum) and the Congo peacock lack giant ocellated feathers, and the Congo peacock is monogamous and practises biparental care. Nevertheless, genetics and anatomy show that these species are deeply nested within the group, so their unusual morphology and behaviour probably represent reversals relative to the ancestral condition (Kimball et al. 1997, 2001).

Captive pair of Congo peacock at Antwerp Zoo; photo by Frank Wouters, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

The evolution of monogamous, biparental Afropavo from polygynous ancestors where males did not provide parental care might be unique among birds. Afropavo – often regarded as one of the most sensational ornithological discoveries of the 20th century – was famously recognised by James Chapin in 1936 when he realised that two discarded taxiderm specimens (labelled as juvenile Pavo cristatus) possessed feathers matching those brought back from Liberia by an American Museum of Natural History expedition in 1913 (Chapin 1936, 1937) [adjacent photo of Afropavo pair by Frank Wouters]. These weren’t juvenile Indian peafowl at all, but representatives of an entirely new, peacock-like gamebird from the Congo. Chapin regarded Afropavo as a peafowl but it was argued by later authors to be a close relative of the African francolins or the guineafowl. Chapin was right, however: the classification of Afropavo among the pavonines is well supported (de Boer & van Bocxstaele 1981, Kimball et al. 1997, Dyke et al. 2003, Ksepka 2009).

Substantially simplified segment of gamebird phylogeny based on the topology recovered by Bonilla et al. (2010): the key thing to note is that turkeys and peafowl belong to different clades. Images by Naish (Meleagris), in public domain (Afropavo), or licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported (Footwarrior: Lophura; Bjørn Christian Tørrissen: Chrysolophus; Doug Janson: Tragopan; Dinesh Kannambadi: Pavo; Dante Alighieri: Polyplectron) and 2.0 (Gary Noon: Phasianus; David Galavan: Perdix; Lip Kee Yap: Gallus) and 2.5 Generic (André Karwath: Coturnix) licenses.

Some recent molecular phylogenies find pavonines to belong in a clade that also includes junglefowl (Gallus) and quails (Coturnix) (Kimball & Braun 2008, Bonilla et al. 2010). This pavonine + junglefowl + quail clade is the sister-group to a clade that includes tragopans, turkeys, partridges, northern pheasants, gallopheasants and others. A much simplified version of that sort of topology is shown here.

Kriegs et al. (2007) and Kimball et al. (2011) found pavonines to be outside a clade that included quails, gallopheasants, partridges, turkeys and grouse (Kimball et al. (2011), incidentally, didn’t find pavonines to be monophyletic). The point is that – according to these results – turkeys and peafowl are not close at all, but members of clades that have been distinct for a substantial amount of time: probably since, say, the Late Miocene or earlier.

Morphological studies don’t recover the same shape to the tree though. According to the work concerned, pavonines do not necessarily group with junglefowl and quails; instead, they are close to, or form part of a poorly resolved group that includes, gallopheasants and turkeys (Dyke et al. 2003, Kspeka 2009). According to these sorts of topologies, peafowl and turkeys might only have diverged within the past 10 million years or so.

So, peafowl and turkeys are definitely not close if you follow the molecular results, but they might be close if you follow the morphological ones. Ksepka (2009) produced an analysis where molecular and morphological results were combined, and turkeys belonged to the same clade as northern pheasants, gallopheasants, grouse and grey partridges; pavonines grouped with junglefowl, quails, snowcocks, Alectoris partridges and others. For now, I favour the idea that turkeys and peafowl do indeed belong to long-separate gamebird clades: they are not close relatives.

The section of Ksepka's (2009) combined analysis that we're especially interested in. Turkeys (Meleagridinae) are part of the same major clade as northern pheasants and kin (Phasianinae) and grouse (Tetraoninae) while peafowl and kin (Pavoninae) are part of the same clade as junglefowl and kin (Gallinae) and quails and kin (Coturnicinae).

Strange as it may seem, peafowl inhabited the Pliocene of eastern Europe where their fossils are found alongside those of ptarmigan (Boev 1998). Presumably, these extinct peafowl were denizens of fairly open habitats where the flora included cold-adapted, broadleaved shrubs and small trees. The species concerned – P. bravardi – was apparently bigger than living peafowl (Boev & Koufos 2000) but, for now, we can only speculate as to whether it had the giant showy trains of modern species. Don’t go thinking that all fossil peafowl were like this, however. The Miocene-Pliocene species P. aesculapi from southwestern and central Europe lived in warm, forested places, while an as-yet-unnamed species of Early Pliocene peafowl from Kenya comes from a humid, forested environment and lived alongside chevrotains and hominids (Pickford et al. 2004).

And now we come to the whole reason for this article. UNBELIEVABLY, it started out as a caption competition. Provide a caption for the photo used at the top. Of course, if you have anything else useful to say, especially if it concerns turkeys, peafowl, or their relatives or evolutionary histories… now would be a good time.

For previous Tet Zoo articles on gamebirds, see…

That’s not much. I must do better.

Refs – -

Boev, Z. 1998. Peafowls (g. Pavo Linnaeus, 1758) and ptarmigans (g. Lagopus Brisson, 1760): an unique coexistence in North Bulgaria over 3 m.y. ago. Biogeographica 19, 220-222.

- . & Koufos, G. 2000. Presence of Pavo bravardi (Gervais, 1849) (Aves, Phasianidae) in the Ruscinian locality of Megalo Emvolon, Macedonia, Greece. Geologica Balcanica 30, 69-74.

Bonilla, A. J., Braun, E. L. & Kimball, R. T. 2010. Comparative molecular evolution and phylogenetic utility of 3’-UTRs and introns in Galliforms [sic]. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 56, 536-542.

de Boer, L. E. & van Bocxstaele, R. 1981. Somatic chromosomes of the Congo peafowl (Afropavo congensis) and their bearing on the species’ affinities. Condor 83, 204-208.

Chapin, J. P. 1936. A new peacock-like bird from the Belgian Congo. Revue de zoologie et de botanique africaines 29, 1-6.

- . 1937. A remarkable new gallinaceous bird from the Belgian Congo. Proceedings of the Linnean Society of London 149, 37-38.

Dyke, G. J., Gulas, B. E. & Crowe, T. M. 2003. Suprageneric relationships of galliform birds (Aves, Galliformes): a cladistic analysis of morphological characters. Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society 137, 227-244.

Kimball, R. T. & Bruan, E. L. 2008. A multigene phylogeny of Galliformes supports a single origin of erectile ability in non-feathered facial traits. Journal of Avian Biology 39, 438-445.

- ., Braun, E. L. & Ligon, J. D. 1997. Resolution of the phylogenetic position of the Congo peafowl, Afropavo congensis: a biogeographic and evolutionary enigma. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B 264, 1517-1523.

- ., Braun, E. L., Ligon, J. D., Kucchini, V. & Randi, E. 2001. A molecular phylogeny of the peacock-pheasants (Galliformes: Polyplectron spp.) indicates loss and reduction of ornamental traits and display behaviours. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 73, 187-198.

- ., St. Mary, C. M. & Braun, E. L. 2011. A macroevolutionary perspective on multiple sexual traits in the Phasianidae (Galliformes). International Journal of Evolutionary Biology 2011, Article ID 423938, 16 pp., doi: 10.4061/2011/423938

Kriegs, J. O., Matzke, A., Churakov, G., Kutizin, A., Mayr, G., Brosius, J. & Schmitz, J. 2007. Waves of genomic hitchhikers shed light on the evolution of gamebirds (Aves: Galliformes). BMC Evolutionary Biology 2007, 7:190 doi:10.1186/1471-2148-7-190

Pickford, M., Senut, B. & Mourer-Chauviré, C. 2004. Early Pliocene Tragulidae and peafowls in the Rift Valley, Kenya: evidence for rainforest in East Africa. C. R. Palevol 3, 179-189.

Darren Naish About the Author: Darren Naish is a science writer, technical editor and palaeozoologist (affiliated with the University of Southampton, UK). He mostly works on Cretaceous dinosaurs and pterosaurs but has an avid interest in all things tetrapod. His publications can be downloaded at darrennaish.wordpress.com. He has been blogging at Tetrapod Zoology since 2006. Check out the Tet Zoo podcast at tetzoo.com! Follow on Twitter @TetZoo.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.





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Comments 46 Comments

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  1. 1. PalaeoSam 5:34 pm 01/13/2013

    “Come, time machine, let’s return to the fourth Wednesday of November…”

    Link to this
  2. 2. Finback 8:11 pm 01/13/2013

    “Ian, Pride March isn’t until *next* weekend.”

    Link to this
  3. 3. naishd 8:24 pm 01/13/2013

    Both good so far :) Several suggestions via twitter as well. I think the turkey should just be saying “**** YOU”.

    Darren

    Link to this
  4. 4. Heteromeles 8:51 pm 01/13/2013

    Not “That all you got, punk?”

    Link to this
  5. 5. kmkohler 8:55 pm 01/13/2013

    Turkey: Show-off!

    Sorry. That’s all I got.

    Link to this
  6. 6. pmurphy98 9:31 pm 01/13/2013

    “I-I…I told you, Jim, I don’t swing that way, I…..I…Oh God, those feathers! No, no, this is wrong! I’m a married gobbler! I have a hen and six poults!……well, okay, maybe just this once, but this can NEVER get out!”

    Link to this
  7. 7. JoseD 9:45 pm 01/13/2013

    “Of course, if you have anything else useful to say, especially if it concerns turkeys, peafowl, or their relatives or evolutionary histories… now would be a good time.”

    This is a good time then to mention the following turkey-related programs.

    The “My Life as a Turkey” episode of “Nature” (1 of my favorite animal documentaries): http://www.pbs.org/wnet/nature/episodes/my-life-as-a-turkey/full-episode/7378/

    The “Happy Turkey Day” episode of “Wild Kratts” (1 of my favorite tv shows): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RQ3P7ShE8sQ

    As for the caption, the 1st 2 things that came to mind were “That’s a lovely tail, does it come in cocks?” & “I can’t hear you, your tail’s too loud!”

    Link to this
  8. 8. John Harshman 11:15 pm 01/13/2013

    I think the turkey should just be saying “**** YOU”.

    But isn’t that exactly what the peacock is saying he wants?

    My caption: “Do you suppose he’s compensating for something?”

    I would prefer a photo of an ocellated turkey. Oh, and if you want to cover wattles and such, how about something on tragopans?

    Link to this
  9. 9. vdinets 11:50 pm 01/13/2013

    “And I thought I’ve been screwed by sexual selection!”

    Link to this
  10. 10. Cat F. 12:48 am 01/14/2013

    “Look man I get it, chicks love a dude with eyeliner, but you look like a damn Vegas showgirl. Have some self respect.”

    Link to this
  11. 11. himitsunokare 2:00 am 01/14/2013

    captioned image uploaded here
    –> http://i.imgur.com/XSz1G.jpg

    Link to this
  12. 12. Lou Jost 7:10 am 01/14/2013

    This would have been a good place to mention the Ocellated Turkey, an often-forgotten endemic of Central America. It is a stunning bird with dramatic eyespots on its tail and wing feathers, very much like many peacock pheasants.

    Link to this
  13. 13. BrianL 10:45 am 01/14/2013

    I think the caption should read:

    “I know us galliforms have external genitalia, but I doubt yours are really THAT big.”

    By the way, this reminds me that there are a few turkey-peafowl hybrids on record, but I don’t know if any of those were male. But then, galliforms are rather prolific hybridisers. Given their monogamy, I wonder if *Afropavo* would be that willingly a hybridiser.

    By the way, I used to see *Afropavo* regularly in Blijdorp Zoo in Rotterdam. Beautiful birds and they make a weird sound that reminds me of sneezing, somewhat like your normal peacock’s yell but much, much softer and wheezier.

    Link to this
  14. 14. naishd 11:37 am 01/14/2013

    Lou Jost (comment 12): the lack of Ocellated turkeys here is indeed quite the travesty (though do look at the other Tet Zoo gamebird articles). I will made amends soon enough. Stay tuned.

    Darren

    Link to this
  15. 15. Hydrarchos 1:02 pm 01/14/2013

    The thing that amazes me about both these phylogenies is how far Gallus comes out from Phasianus and kin, considering how easily they hybridise with one another (and, AFAIK, attempts to cross chickens and turkeys have failed even to hatch eggs).

    Also, where do guineafowl fit into all this? I believe they also hybridise with both chickens and peafowl…

    Link to this
  16. 16. naishd 1:23 pm 01/14/2013

    Hydrarchos (comment 15): good questions. When I was a kid, I recall getting the impression that chickens (= junglefowl) are pheasants, not all that far from northern pheasants, ruffed pheasants and so on. Turns out that this is not at all right. Different phylogenies produce different results, but junglefowl group close to francolins, bamboo-partridges, quails or similar taxa – they are not close relatives of pheasants.

    Guineafowl are universally regarded as being outside the clade that includes New World quails (odontophorids) and the partridges, turkeys, grouse and pheasant-like taxa, hence the use of a separate ‘family’ name, Numididae.

    As for hybridisation, it is pretty rampant across the group – (almost) anything goes. You are correct that guineafowl can hybridise with junglefowl (the hybrids look pretty freaky), yet these birds belong to lineages that have probably been separate since before the start of the Miocene, 23 Ma ago.

    Darren

    Link to this
  17. 17. John Harshman 4:18 pm 01/14/2013

    Ducks are prone to similar hybridizations of anciently separated taxa. Perhaps we have a synapomorphy of Galloanserae here? Or perhaps we historically have tended to notice commonly eaten or domesticated birds more than others. Perhaps there have been fewer tests of whether distantly related piciforms would hybridize in captivity, for example.

    Link to this
  18. 18. Halbred 7:00 pm 01/14/2013

    “The SUN! Where’s the SUN?!”

    I was just in Hawaii for two weeks, and there are junglefowl everywhere. I was impressed by how individualized they are in terms of coloration, and wondered why some animals (like junglefowl) are so individually different than others, like the Mayna birds, who all look exactly the same.

    Link to this
  19. 19. vdinets 8:21 pm 01/14/2013

    Halbred: Hawaiian birds are secondarily wild and have no predators. If you look at feral populations with few or no predators around the world, be it cattle in Britain, pigeons in big cities, or mustangs in North America, you’ll see similar diversity.

    Does anybody know what makes it possible for ducks and fowl to hybridize with distant relatives? Some weird genetic mechanism?

    Link to this
  20. 20. Lou Jost 9:10 pm 01/14/2013

    Darren, thanks for agreeing about the Ocellated Turkey, and I look forward to what you will write about this most amazing bit of convergent evolution.

    Link to this
  21. 21. Lou Jost 9:33 pm 01/14/2013

    Darren, I went back to read the TZ articles you cited. They were interesting (especially the bits about blue skin color being structural, which I never imagined), but the second article said motmot racquet tails were found only in males. I think this must be wrong. Whenever I am in a place with motmots, either nearly all of them have racquets, or none of them do. N >> 100.

    I went back to read your reference for that statement, and it actually doesn’t say males are the only ones that have racquets. It only says that the bare portions of the feather shafts above the racquets are about 10% longer in males than in females.

    Link to this
  22. 22. John Harshman 9:34 pm 01/14/2013

    Convergent? What’s converging? In what taxa? Fancy colors appear all over Phasianidae. “Eyes” appear all over Phasianidae. I’m pretty sure that they’re developmentally very easy to make happen.

    Link to this
  23. 23. Lou Jost 10:32 pm 01/14/2013

    John, even if iridescent eyespots are easy to evolve, it is still convergence. Two or more lineages evolved the same adaption for the same end.

    Link to this
  24. 24. John Harshman 11:34 pm 01/14/2013

    Agreed. But it would in that case hardly be amazing, eh?

    Link to this
  25. 25. vdinets 12:08 am 01/15/2013

    John: What would be really amazing is if eyespots were found to be an ancestral thingy, lost in most lineages. Only a few species such as buttonquails and tapaculos still have them, but all feathered non-avian dinosaurs had plenty…

    Link to this
  26. 26. Allen Hazen 2:40 am 01/15/2013

    Re:hybridization.
    Chromosomal re-shuffling is one of the things that PREVENTS hybridization– various extant equid species have different chromosome numbers which is apparently a good part of why mules, etc, are sterile(*).

    So my guess (I’d call it my prediction if it were based on a bit more knowledge…) is that, however else they have evolved, game birds are pretty uniform in karyotype.

    (Hmmm. I seem to recall that marsupials tend to be more uniform in chromosome number than placentals. Anybody know of remarkable interspecific crosses among marsupials?)

    Link to this
  27. 27. Allen Hazen 2:41 am 01/15/2013

    (*) Yes I know it’s an oversimplification to say mules are sterile….

    Link to this
  28. 28. naishd 4:31 am 01/15/2013

    Ocelli and convergence, or not (comments 20, 22, 23 and 25): ocelli are not especially widespread in gamebirds, being present only in phasianids (in the grand, inclusive sense) where we see them in peacock-pheasants, peafowl, argus pheasants and turkeys. If pavonines are a clade, this would mean only two appearances of ocelli (early in pavonines, and late in turkeys), and this would indeed be an example of convergence. If, however, pavonines form a series of outgroups to other phasianids (as per Kimball et al. 2011), the presence of ocelli was primitive for phasianids and ocelli were lost (or heavily modified) on numerous separate occasions among later lineages. The presence of blue ocelli in turkeys (well, in the Ocellated turkey) fooled people in the past into thinking that this species was a pavonine, not a turkey at all. More on that soon!

    Darren

    Link to this
  29. 29. SRPlant 6:28 am 01/15/2013

    “Yes, but can you inflate your snood?”

    Link to this
  30. 30. Jerzy v. 3.0. 7:14 am 01/15/2013

    @19
    I think it is not a genetic factor, but that waterfowl and gamebirds are often shot and bred in captivity. People also did strange crossings with parrots and finches.

    There is one interesting snippet from McCarthy’s “Handbook of Avian Hybrids of the World”. He mentions several hybrids of Cracidae and Phasianidae, and also some info on a hybrid between Lyrebird male and domestic hens. I wonder if there is any chance it is possible?

    Link to this
  31. 31. Jerzy v. 3.0. 7:29 am 01/15/2013

    Another mystery which fascinates me is genetics of peacock feathers. How genetic control creates such a perfect pattern? There is certainly no separate gene for every color and its position. And such complex patterns apparently evolve rather easily in nature.

    If anybody has even a general explanation, please write.

    Link to this
  32. 32. farandfew 8:29 am 01/15/2013

    You’re not the only one to be fascinated by this, Jerzy. I’ve heard a creationist advance the perfection of the pattern as evidence. As far as I understood his argument he thought that there was indeed a separate gene for every colour and its position and that the pixels were on a molecular scale. Which I would have thought would exceed the information content of the peacock genome.

    Link to this
  33. 33. Tayo Bethel 9:49 am 01/15/2013

    Are there any significant differences between wild and domestic jungle fowl?

    Link to this
  34. 34. Lou Jost 10:08 am 01/15/2013

    Jerzy and farandfew, there are simple mathematical models for producing complex patterns, which can be encoded by a quite small amount of information. The models describe diffusion of proteins during development. Alan Turing proposed such a model in order to explain the complex coat patterns of zebras and cats. For an intro see
    http://www.sjsu.edu/faculty/watkins/murray.htm
    For more, search “Turing patterns”. Whether this model is right or not, it shows that simple algorithmic models can easily produce complex patterns.

    Link to this
  35. 35. vdinets 10:23 am 01/15/2013

    Tayo: domestic ones are apparently a result of hybridization of two species, although red junglefowl was the main contributor.

    Eriksson J. et al. 2008. Identification of the Yellow Skin Gene Reveals a Hybrid Origin of the Domestic Chicken. PLoS Genet January 23, 2008.

    Link to this
  36. 36. Jerzy v. 3.0. 12:14 pm 01/15/2013

    @Lou Jost
    Thanks, I knew about this research already. However examples of patterns produced there are far too crude. Black and white blotches on a cow, maybe.

    But not peacock feathers with its “blink of light in the pupil”. It looks nothing like that. Peacock feather is also apparently not a simple fractal iteration, like a pattern of eg. branches of a tree. Amazing is also that a complex color pattern can switch to completely different equally complex pattern pretty easily.

    Another example are mimic butterflies resembling different toxic butterflies.

    Link to this
  37. 37. Jerzy v. 3.0. 12:36 pm 01/15/2013

    @farandfew
    Indeed, such a simple model is impossible – among others, it would need extraordinary fast and complex evolution from uniform and colorful animals.

    This is *perhaps* *somehow* produced by factors which produce different colors in different concentrations, and dilute each other, and block each other, but this explanation is still far away from explaining eye-spot of a peacock or cryptic pattern on snipe.

    And the best is that animals have likely some common underlying mechanism, simple but extraordinary flexible, which can easily flip with a tiny change of parameters and produce completely different naturelike patterns, like say, eye-spots and all the patterns of male and female Phasianidae.

    Link to this
  38. 38. Lou Jost 9:04 pm 01/15/2013

    farandfew, my point was not that Turing patterns necessarily explain peacock feather patterns. I mentioned them as an example showing that simple algorithms can lead to complex color patterns. There is no need to “code each pixel”. This shows that the information limitation you suggested does not need to apply. In the case of a peacock’s eyespots, the pattern is very repetitive and concentric, and seems like a good candidate for this kind of thing. Also, keep in mind that many of the color variations in the eyespots are produced not by pigments but by structural color, so color can be varied simply by adjusting the scale of certain cellular structures (pigments under the structures add more color variation).

    Link to this
  39. 39. Jenny Islander 11:00 pm 01/15/2013

    “What the hell did I just drink?!”

    Link to this
  40. 40. Heteromeles 1:06 am 01/16/2013

    Um, anybody looked at this? Found it on a Google search:

    Jian Zi*, Xindi Yu, Yizhou Li, Xinhua Hu, Chun Xu, Xingjun Wang, Xiaohan Liu*, and Rongtang Fu. 2003. Coloration strategies in peacock feathers. PNAS. PNAS  100(22) pp. 12576–12578.

    http://www.pnas.org/content/100/22/12576.full.pdf+html

    Lou appears to be right, at first glance.

    Link to this
  41. 41. Hai~Ren 7:54 am 01/16/2013

    “It’s not fair. You get Katy Perry, and I have Adam Sandler.”*

    * Katy Perry has a song titled Peacock, with a chant that goes, “I wanna see your peacock, cock, cock, cock /
    Your peacock, cock, cock, cock / Your peacock, cock, cock, cock”

    Adam Sandler has the Thanksgiving Song, where he goes, “Love to eat turkey / Love to eat turkey / Love to eat turkey / ‘Cause it’s good”

    Link to this
  42. 42. Finback 7:56 am 01/16/2013

    I just realised: I can only hear a turkey’s voice as Zoidberg now.

    Link to this
  43. 43. David Marjanović 1:07 pm 01/16/2013

    There is one interesting snippet from McCarthy’s “Handbook of Avian Hybrids of the World”. He mentions several hybrids of Cracidae and Phasianidae, and also some info on a hybrid between Lyrebird male and domestic hens.

    o_O
    O_o
    o_o
    O_O

    Link to this
  44. 44. naishd 1:10 pm 01/16/2013

    I’ve heard of the alleged lyrebird x chicken hybrid and think it was a mistaken identification. It’s one of a list of ‘impossible’ hybrids – others being horse x deer and cat x rabbit. They always turn out to be misidentified teratologies.

    Darren

    Link to this
  45. 45. Jerzy v. 3.0. 5:33 am 01/17/2013

    @Darren
    Likely so, although the author (of the original report) says that he tried to breed lyrebirds in his cage but instead “only” produced several hybrids out of a male and his chicken. Perhaps the person was unreliable, indeed?

    Reports of Cracidae x chicken hybrids (two different orders according to some classifications) come about several genera and many sources.

    Link to this
  46. 46. Hydrarchos 1:17 pm 01/17/2013

    *Warning – clueless non-biologist speculation ahead*

    I wonder whether whatever it is that causes hybridisation to be so common in Galloanserae is related to why most of the bird species that were domesticated are Galloanserae (as opposed to, say, coots or bustards) – perhaps it indicates some sort of genetic plasticity that also makes them easier to selectively breed?

    There is some info on phasianid hybrids here, including pics of a mounted guineafowl x chicken hybrid, a living chicken x peacock hybrid, and living and mounted guineafowl x peacock hybrids: http://www.messybeast.com/genetics/hybrid-birds.htm

    (also from that site, although the information is a bit contradictory, it looks like turkey x chicken hybrids have been produced, if only very rarely – there must be significant barriers to successful breeding, but that can occasionally be overcome, and no proof that hybrids can reach adulthood – the pictured 4 week old chick doesn’t look too healthy…)

    Also: lyrebirds are passerines? Wow, I never knew that. Guess I thought they were some sort of galliform or analogue…

    Link to this

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