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Genetic variation across the historical range of the wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo)


Dr K. E. Mock, ‡Present address: Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, 5210 Old Main Hill, Utah State University, Logan, UT 84322–5210, USA. Fax: 1 435 797 1871; E-mail:


Genetic differences within and among naturally occurring populations of wild turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo) were characterized across five subspecies’ historical ranges using amplified fragment length polymorphism (AFLP) analysis, microsatellite loci and mitochondrial control region sequencing. Current subspecific designations based on morphological traits were generally supported by these analyses, with the exception of the eastern (M. g. silvestris) and Florida (M. g. osceola) subspecies, which consistently formed a single unit. The Gould’s subspecies was both the most genetically divergent and the least genetically diverse of the subspecies. These genetic patterns were consistent with current and historical patterns of habitat continuity. Merriam’s populations showed a positive association between genetic and geographical distance, Rio Grande populations showed a weaker association and the eastern populations showed none, suggesting differing demographic forces at work in these subspecies. We recommend managing turkeys to maintain subspecies integrity, while recognizing the importance of maintaining regional population structure that may reflect important adaptive variation.