The Domestic Turkey and the First Thanksgiving

This is the time of year that we rightfully contemplate the noble Turkey. The very first thing we notice about this large member of the Galliformes is that there is a wild version and a domestic version, and although the two are rather different, they are both given the same species name, Meleagris gallopavo. This is not entirely unknown among domestic animals, but many domesticates have no living wild version. Thus, the cattle we raise for meat and dairy are sometimes called Bos taurus while the extinct wild form is always called Bos primigenius. The domestic cat has the uninspired name Felis catus in some circles, or otherwise, Felis silvestris while the wild version (not the feral version, but the wild cat that lives in Africa today) was once known by a Latin binomial that is no longer polite to say, for a while as Felix lybica, and now, owing to the trend of reconflating wild and domestic forms when they are known to interbreed, as Felis silvestris lybica. The domestic dog was once and still often is Canis familiaris as opposed to the wolf, Canis lupus, but the former which is really a subspecies of the latter is now Canis lupus familiaris. I don’t believe, but this is subject to correction, that the wild and domestic Turkey were ever called by different binomials.

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