SREL Reprint #1909





Genetic variation, morphology, and age structure in wild turkeys

P. L. Leberg
Department of Biology, University of Southwestern Louisiana, Lafayette, LA 70504 USA


The influence of genetic variation on the ecology of forest wildlife is poorly understood. Relationships among genotypes of 5 electrophoretic loci, 3 physical traits (body mass, beard length, and spur length), and age were examined in 360 wild turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo) from Connecticut, western Kentucky and Tennessee. In both latter populations, adults were more heterozygous than yearlings, but not for turkeys from Connecticut. Multiple-locus heterozygosity was positively associated with age-specific spur length of turkeys from both populations. For turkeys from Kentucky, and Tennessee, beard length of adults increased with heterozygosity. Significant single locus effects were observed for spur and beard length, but not body mass. Explanations for these results include higher growth and survival of turkey's with greater numbers of heterozygous loci, although the underlying genetic mechanisms responsible for these relationships are not clear. Management strategies affecting genetic variation may influence morphology and survival of turkeys.

SREL Reprint #1909

Leberg, P.L. 1993. Genetic variation, morphology, and age structure in wild turkeys. p. 126-131. In XXI IUGB Congress: Forests and Wildlife...Towards the 21st Century, edited by I.D. Thompson. Vol. 1. International Union of Game Biologists. Halifax, Canada.

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