Scientific Turkey Facts!

We’ve all been taught about the history of Thanksgiving and how the holiday came to be, but a lot of us might not know much about that special bird you love to eat with your stuffing and cranberry sauce. With Turkey Day just passed, why not learn more about the bird that has become the poster-child of this magnificent holiday tradition? So here are some interesting and little-known facts about turkeys!

Many people have heard that eating turkey makes you tired because it contains a chemical called tryptophan, which produces serotonin that helps us sleep. However, all types of meat contain tryptophan at varying levels, and even cheese has higher levels of tryptophan than turkey. Therefore, you can’t blame just the turkey for making you want to hit the hay. Eating turkey in addition to large amounts of carbohydrates from stuffing, casseroles, and pies can cause fatigue, and consuming alcohol contributes to your tiredness as well!


If you’ve ever eaten wild turkey, you’d know that it contains more dark meat than a domestic turkey. This is because a turkey’s ability to fly affects the nature of its meat. Wild turkeys know how to fly, so their muscles are used more often than those of domestic turkeys, who can’t fly. Blood, which contains an oxygen-binding protein called myoglobin, rushes to muscles that are being utilized. Myoglobin is responsible for darker pigment in muscles. Since wild turkeys use their muscles more to fly, their meat contains more myoglobin than domestic turkeys, meaning their meat is darker.  This also explains why the drumsticks (legs) of domestic turkeys have darker meat—because their legs are used more often than other parts of the body!

Lastly, you may have heard that dinosaurs are ancestors of birds. Well it turns out that dinosaurs and turkeys share a common physical trait: they both have wishbones! A wishbone, also known scientifically as a furcula, is a forked bone structure between the neck and breast of a bird that connects the bird’s flying muscles. A common Thanksgiving tradition is that two people would hold either end of the turkey’s wishbone and simultaneously try to break the bone in half. Whoever gets the longer side of the bone can make a wish. Dinosaurs have this structure as well, further supporting the idea that birds evolved from dinosaurs! If you ever need a good conversation starter at Thanksgiving dinner, now you can impress your family members and share your extensive knowledge on turkeys!

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By: Kim Chittanon

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