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Ecol Evol. 2018 Feb 19;8(6):3229-3239. doi: 10.1002/ece3.3881. eCollection 2018 Mar.

Patterns of musculoskeletal growth and dimensional changes associated with selection and developmental plasticity in domestic and wild strain turkeys.

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Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Brown University Providence RI 02912 USA.


Domestication is a type of experimental evolution in which humans have artificially selected for specific desired traits. Selected strain animals can be utilized to identify correlated responses by comparing them to the wild strain. In particular, domestic turkeys have been selected for increased body mass and high-growth rate, most significantly over the past 60 years. Yet it remains unclear how artificial selection has affected the morphology and evolution of the musculoskeletal system as a whole. Here, we compare growth rate over 21 weeks, hind limb bone scaling across ontogeny via in vivo CT scanning, and muscle proportions in wild and domestic turkeys to identify differences in structural scaling and the potential contributions of selection and developmental plasticity to whole-organism morphology. The domestic turkeys grew at a higher rate (0.14 kg/day vs. 0.05 kg/day) and reached over 3 times the body mass of wild birds. Comparing the proportional muscle masses in adult turkeys, only the trunk had a greater mass ratio in the domestic turkey, driven solely by M. pectoralis (2.8 times larger). The proportional increase in only breast meat and no other muscles highlights the surgical precision attainable with artificial selection. The domestic turkey femur and tibiotarsus displayed increases in polar moment of area, apparently maintaining torsional strength as body mass increased. The lack of dimensional change in the more vertically held tarsometatarsus is consistent with the pattern expected due to developmental plasticity. These results from the domestic turkey emphasize that there are morphological limits to preserving the balance between growth and function, and varying rates of trait evolution can further complicate this equilibrium.


allometry; morphological evolution; phenotypic plasticity; selection—artificial

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