10 great facts about turkey | Live Science

Gobble up, gobble up

Turkey sandwiches are gobbled up all year round, but during Thanksgiving, the wattled bird is the star attraction on the dinner table. But there’s more to turkeys than meets the eye. Like all birds, the turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) is a living dinosaur, which means it is related to tyrannosaurus rex. The official Thanksgiving bird can sport multiple beards, and it has an iridescent cousin known as the ocellated turkey (Meleagris ocellata) which lives in Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula, northern Belize and northern Guatemala.

CNET delves into the rich biology, history, and folklore behind the harvest festival staple. We hope you gobble up some turkey science with your holiday meal.

1. They sport beards

The centerpiece of many Thanksgiving tables once sported a beard? Well, sort of. The hair-like hairs that grow from the breasts of male turkeys (or gobblers) and some hens are actually specialized feathers called meso filoplumes that grow from a single follicle. They can be long, with a few barbs touching the ground, though feeding tends to wear down the ends, according to the Pennsylvania Game Commission.

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