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Diversity of Management Strategies in Mesoamerican Turkeys: Archaeological, Isotopic and Genetic Evidence

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Publication details

JournalRoyal Society Open Science
DateAccepted/In press - 5 Dec 2017
DateE-pub ahead of print (current) - 17 Jan 2018
Number of pages14
Pages (from-to)1-14
Early online date17/01/18
Original languageEnglish


The turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) represents one of the few domestic animals of the New World. While current research points to distinct domestication centers in the Southwest United States and Mesoamerica, several questions regarding the number of progenitor populations, and the timing and intensity of turkey husbandry remain unanswered. This study applied ancient mitochondrial DNA and stable isotope (δ13C, δ15N) analysis to 55 archaeological turkey remains from Mexico to investigate pre-contact turkey exploitation in Mesoamerica. Three different (sub)species of turkeys were identified in the archaeological record (M. g. mexicana, M. g. gallopavo, and M. ocellata), indicating the exploitation of diverse local populations, as well as the trade of captively-reared birds into the Maya area. No evidence of shared maternal haplotypes were observed between Mesoamerica and the Southwest United States, in contrast with archaeological evidence for trade of other domestic products. Isotopic analysis indicates a range of feeding behaviours in ancient Mesoamerican turkeys, including wild foraging, human provisioning, and mixed feeding ecologies. This variability in turkey diet decreases through time, with archaeological, genetic and isotopic evidence all pointing to the intensification of domestic turkey management and husbandry, culminating in the Postclassic period.

Bibliographical note

© 2018 The Authors.

    Research areas

  • ancient DNA analysis, animal domestication, archaeology, isotope analysis, Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo)

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