Turkey skeleton audit

February 16, 2022

Back in at least 2008 — maybe earlier — I kept all the bones from our good-sized Christmas turkey. Of course, it’s missing the head, neck and feet, but otherwise it’s pretty much all there. (I may also have the neck, but if so then it was supplied as a separate item, and prepared separately.) Here is the box of postcervical bones:

Postcervical skeleton of a mature domestic turkey Meleagris gallopavo domesticus, complete except for feet.

As I was transferring them to a better box today, it occurred to me to lay them  out and see how much sense I could make of them. Here’s what I did with the bones I was happy about:

Postcervical skeleton of a mature domestic turkey Meleagris gallopavo domesticus, complete except for feet. Some small bones omitted (see below). Laid out roughly as in life, in dorsal view.

I should  have put something in the photo to act as a scale-bar, because it’s not apparent from this photo that a turkey is a pretty big thing. From top to bottom of the skeleton as I laid it out here is about 90 cm.

Here are my (in some cases tentative) identifications of the bones:

Postcervical skeleton of a mature domestic turkey Meleagris gallopavo domesticus, complete except for feet. Some small bones omitted (see below). Laid out roughly as in life, in dorsal view. Bones are tentatively labelled. DO NOT USE FOR TUTORIAL PURPOSES.

Are there any obvious mistakes in there? And have I got any of the bones left-right reversed?

Now, here are all the other bones that I was less confident about the positions of:

Postcervical skeleton of a mature domestic turkey Meleagris gallopavo domesticus, complete except for feet. Small bones only.

On the left of course we have the dorsal ribs, but I’ve not been able to arrange them all into near pairs, nor figure out what order I should impose on the pairs that I do have. I’m not even sure how many pairs I should have. On the right are other paired bones whose identity I can’t figure out. I am guessing that the longer ones are probably sternal ribs and that the irregularly shaped ones might be parts of the wrist, but I would welcome corrections and clarifications. Finally, the middle column contains the bones whose idea I have little or no idea about, and which don’t appear to be paired. Any ideas?


By the way, I found this image useful in figuring out the identities of the appendicular bones:

Skeletal reconstruction of a domestic turkey, published in 1808. Source unknown (leave a comment if you can identify it).

And this one useful for the bones of the wing and especially the hand:

Human and bird arm skeletons compared. Source unknown.

More from this skeleton another time!

8 Responses to “Turkey skeleton audit”

  1. nwfonseca Says:

    I can’t identify them but here is a link to something that may help: https://people.ohio.edu/witmerl/1976_Ghetie_Avian_Anatomical_Atlas.pdf

  2. Mike Taylor Says:

    Thanks, nwfonseca, that looks really helpful.

  3. Daniel Gonçalves Says:

    The skeletal reconstitution of the turkey comes from a volume Aves of ‘General Zoology or Systematic Natural History’ by George Shaw ; Kearsley, London, 1809. But I can’t determine which volume.

  4. Mickey Mortimer Says:

    I think you have the tibiotarsi reversed, as the fibular crest should be on the outside. On the small bones photo, third down on the right side are the pisiforms/”ulnares”. Don’t forget that uncinate processes will look similar to sternal ribs. I reconstructed a turkey years ago but found there was no easy way to connect the pectoral girdle and wings to the main body- https://www.theropoddatabase.com/turkey.jpg .

  5. Mike Taylor Says:

    Thanks, Mickey, that’s all helpful!


  6. […] was looking more closely at the turkey skeleton from my recent post, and zeroed in on the last two dorsal (= thoracic) vertebrae. They articulate very well with each […]

  7. Squiddhartha Says:

    Might want to fix the typo of “complete” in your figure captions.

    Stinkin’ theropods! :)


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