Kristin K. Stover, Elizabeth L. Brainerd, and Thomas J. Roberts

Domestication has altered turkey morphology by artificially selecting for increased muscle mass and breast meat. Artificial selection has resulted in birds that weigh up to 3 times more than their wild counterparts, with relatively little change in the length of their bones and limbs. Considering these structural changes, it seems probable that domestic turkey locomotor kinematics and kinetics would also be altered. To examine the locomotor dynamics of wild and domestic turkeys, we had both strains walk down a runway with a force plate at the center to measure their ground reaction forces and gait parameters. The location of their center of mass was also quantified using a force plate and bi-planar x-ray and found to be further anterior in the domestic strain. The domestic turkeys locomoted across a lower range of speeds (0.25–1.64 ms–1) than the wild turkeys (0.26–3.26 ms–1) and increased their stride frequency at a higher rate. They also displayed large lateral oscillations, i.e. waddling, during walking that translated into relatively high medio-lateral ground reaction forces and lateral kinetic energy (3.5 times higher than that of wild turkeys). The results indicate that domestic turkey locomotion is not simply a slowed down version of wild turkey locomotion. The changes in gait observed are similar to the shuffling gait present in some human populations, such as Parkinson’s patients, which serves to increase stability. The domestic turkey’s increased body mass and more anterior center of mass position may require these kinematic and kinetic gait differences.

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