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12.10: Meleagris gallopavo: Wild Turkey

Difficulty Level: At Grade Created by: CK-12

Common Name

  • Wild Turkey


The wild turkey is colorful, with red, black and brown. They can weigh 7,400 grams. Wild turkeys don’t get very old, living only a few years. They weigh 3.6 to 11 kg, and the average length of a wild turkey is 117cm. The wild turkey has a brown and white pattern for feathers. Benjamin Franklin proposed it should be our national bird instead of the bald eagle!

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Aves
  • Order: Galliformes
  • Family: Phasianidae
  • Genus: Meleagris
  • Species: M. gallopavo


The wild turkey lives in most of the United States, mainly in woodland and grassland areas. They also live in Europe and New Zealand.


Cell Biology

The wild turkey has eukaryotic cells (cells with nuclei). Eukaryotic cells have many different organelles such as nuclei, ribosomes, lysosomes, and mitochondria. The nucleus is the core of the cell and contains genetic information. The ribosomes are used in the process of creating protein. The lysosomes break down foreign material, and the cytoplasm fills in the cell. The cell membrane coats the outside of the cell and protects it.

The cells divide with mitosis and meiosis. Mitosis is when a parent cell multiplies, and the daughter cell shares the same amount of chromosomes as the parent cell. Meiosis is almost the same process, but the new cell shares 1/2 of the chromosomes as the original cell. Meiosis produces reproductive cells called gametes.


Most scientists think birds evolved from bipedal and/or theropod dinosaurs. Wings may have come from a bird ancestor that was living in trees and leapt into the air to avoid predators or to capture prey. The bird ancestor Deinonychus evolved about eleven million years ago in North America.


Raccoons, opossums, striped skunks, grey foxes, birds, woodchucks, rodents, spotted skunks, bobcats, rat snakes, bull snakes, coyotes, mountain lions, golden eagles, great horned owls, and humans eat the wild turkey. The wild turkey is an omnivore but eats mostly plants. Wild turkeys eat acorns, nuts, and various trees.

Anatomy and Physiology

Birds are two-legged vertebrates and are a form of reptile that evolved from bipedal/theropod dinosaurs (see evolution section). All birds have four-chambered hearts in which both the atrium and ventricle are divided. They also have two respiration cycles instead of one (which mammals have). Both respiration cycles happen at the same time. Birds have remiges (wing feathers) and rectrices (tail feathers). They are used for both mating display and flight. Birds have special skeletal modifications for flight. They have hollow bones which reduce frame weight. This feature has developed most in larger birds, such as the wild turkey.


An adult turkey is aggressive in self-defense. The wild turkey can fly/glide at 60 miles per hour. They roost in trees at night for shelter and they sometimes walk along forest roads and look for food. They do not migrate.




  • Roan Woolley
  • Jacob Felix Solomon
  • Drake Matthew Borman

Supervising Faculty

  • Amy Huff Shah


  • Museum School, San Diego, California


  • Published prior to review.

Edit History

  • Created: April 5, 2013
  • Version 1.0 submitted to CK-12: July 11, 2013
  • CK-12 edits: in progress


  • Middle School (grades 6-8)

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Date Created:

Jul 18, 2013

Last Modified:

Dec 05, 2014
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