The carpometacarpus of the Pliocene turkey Meleagris leopoldi (Galliformes: Phasianidae) and the problem of morphological variability in turkeys
- Author(s): Stidham, Thomas A.
- et al.
I describe the first known carpometacarpus attributable to the extinct late Pliocene (Blancan) turkey Meleagris leopoldi that was apparently collected with the type material at the type locality in Cita Canyon, Texas. Although known to previous workers, this specimen has never been discussed or described. The size and morphology of the carpometacarpus indicates that M. leopoldi may be distinct from the extant M. gallopavo and is similar to Meleagris progenes and Inglis 1A (Florida) material. However, this fossil does not clarify the relationship to and possible synonymy of M. leopoldi and M. anza, but it adds support to the idea that M. progenes is a junior synonym of M. leopoldi. The extreme morphological variation among fossil turkey specimens and recognized species obscures the phylogenetic relationships among Meleagris taxa. The presence of certain variable characters in geologically older Meleagris taxa may provide a clue to assess character polarity. Given these data, it appears that Meleagris leopoldi was a widely distributed late Pliocene species that was replaced in its geographic range by M. gallopavo during the Pleistocene.