Thursday, 24 November 2011

The Truth about Turkeys: TTS (tetanic torticollar spasms) or just not so smart?

I photographed a turkey once for a Canada Post 35¢ stamp.
The turkey, who was named Tom, was very uncooperative. During a break in the shoot
the farmer accompanying Tom related a Tall Turkey Tale to me.

"You know Tom (Tom Feiler), if you leave a turkey outside in the rain the turkey will stare up to the sky and open it's mouth and stay frozen in that position. As if hypnotized. It will leave it's mouth open until it drowns."

"Hmm..", I thought.
The shoot continued and I got the shot along with some turkey poo on the studio floor but the question remained:

So why do turkeys sometimes stare skyward? 

Tom Savage, a professor of animal science at Oregon State University, says that the root of this behaviour is not stupidity, but genes. In the early 1990s, he discovered an inherited condition in turkeys, called tetanic torticollar spasms. This condition can cause turkeys to exhibit abnormal behaviours, such as looking at the sky for 30 seconds or more at a time.

Not Tom the Turkey.

So the debate remains: genetic defects as a result of TTS or just plain dumb?
All I know is that Turkeys do not like being photographed and they get nervous. In a bad way.