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Wattles, Caruncles & Snoods

11-27-14  HAPPY THANKSGIVING IMG_7637Wild tom turkeys have a number of ways of impressing hens in addition to displays involving their feathers. Among them are wattles, caruncles and snoods — fleshy protuberances that adorn their throats and beaks. A large wattle, or dewlap, is a flap of skin on the throat of a male turkey. The bulbous, fleshy growths at the bottom of the turkey’s throat are major caruncles. Large wattles and caruncles have been shown to correlate with high testosterone levels, good nutrition and the ability to evade predators, which makes the genes of a tom turkey with them very desirable to a female. The snood, another fleshy outgrowth which hangs down over the male’s beak, is normally pale and not very long. When he starts strutting and courting a hen, the snood (and caruncles) becomes engorged with blood, making it redder and longer. This impresses both male and female turkeys –the males avoid or defer to him and the females’ interest in him is heightened. A longer snood has also been correlated with a lack of internal parasites, making toms with large snoods even more irresistible to hens.

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2 responses

  1. Cecelia Blair

    Female sexual selection–that is, females ability to select their mates–is one of the forces in evolution according to Darwin. This was popularly overlooked though, in what became the emphasis on survival of the fittest. But dinosaurs are now thought to have evolved into birds largely due to females selecting for beauty, or with aesthetic criteria. Healthy, capable mates too. But if their only criterion had been the largest and toughest, what do you suppose that birds would now look like, instead?

    November 27, 2014 at 3:01 pm

  2. Fascinating facts on tom turkeys, Mary. I loved learning about their natural selection process. Perfect for this day. Hope yours was greatly enjoyed.

    November 28, 2014 at 2:51 am

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