Fitness correlates of spur length and spur asymmetry in male wild turkeys

Alexander V. Badyaev, William J. Etges, John D. Faust, Thomas E. Martin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


1. Tarsal spurs play an important role in intrasexual competition for females among male wild turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo). Thus variation in spur development may have important fitness consequences. 2. Fitness correlates of spur development were studied in a free-living population of wild turkeys and it was found that heavier males and males with longer beards had longer spurs. Males that had longer spurs spent more time on display areas during the breeding season and less time moving among these areas compared to males with shorter spurs, independently of their body mass. 3. Otherwise ideally symmetrical spurs showed fluctuating asymmetry between left and right tarsi, the degree of absolute asymmetry decreased with spur length in adults, but not in subadults, and males that survived at least one winter had more symmetrical spurs compared to males that did not. 4. We conclude that if the ability to produce symmetrical spurs has a genetic basis, then spur length and spur asymmetry could reliably indicate individual quality and that these traits are under directional selection for increased size and symmetry in wild turkeys.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)845-852
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Animal Ecology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 1998


  • Fluctuating asymmetry
  • Meleagris gallopavo
  • Sexual selection
  • Tarsal spurs

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology


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