How Many Hearts Does a Turkey Have?

1 Institute of Veterinary Anatomy, Department of Veterinary Medicine, Freie Universität Berlin, Berlin, GermanyFind articles by

1 Institute of Veterinary Anatomy, Department of Veterinary Medicine, Freie Universität Berlin, Berlin, GermanyFind articles by

2 College of Veterinary Medicine, School of Veterinary and Life Sciences, Murdoch University, Murdoch, AustraliaFind articles by

3 Institute of Poultry Diseases, Department of Veterinary Medicine, Freie Universität Berlin, Berlin, GermanyFind articles by

1 Institute of Veterinary Anatomy, Department of Veterinary Medicine, Freie Universität Berlin, Berlin, GermanyFind articles by

1 Institute of Veterinary Anatomy, Department of Veterinary Medicine, Freie Universität Berlin, Berlin, GermanyFind articles by

The macroscopic and microscopic heart structures of two turkey lines—a wild turkey line (Canadian Wild turkey) and a fast-growing, meat-type line (British United turkeys BUT Big 6)—were compared in this study. At 8 and 16 weeks of age, 10 birds of each genotype and sex were sampled. Compared to the wild-type turkey, the meat-type turkey’s body mass and heart mass increased more quickly. But while the relative heart mass did somewhat decline with age in both turkey lines, this decline was only statistically significant in the male turkeys. Furthermore meat-type turkeys had a significantly (p < 0. 01) compared to wild-type turkeys of the same age, smaller relative heart mass and left ventricle thickness Between 8 weeks and 16 weeks, the cardiomyocytes’ cross-sectional area and diameter in the wild-type turkeys did not significantly change. In contrast, the size of cardiomyocytes increased significantly (p < 0. 001) with age in the meat-type turkeys. The number of capillaries in the left ventricular wall increased significantly (p < 0. 001) increasing from 2351 per mm2 at 8 weeks of age to 2843 per mm2 at 16 weeks in wild-type turkeys. However, there were no appreciable changes in the meat-type turkeys, with capillary numbers measuring 2989 per mm2 at 8 weeks and 2915 per mm2 at 16 weeks. Correspondingly the area occupied by capillaries in the myocardium increased in wild-type turkeys from 8. 59% at the age of 8 weeks to 9. 15% at 16 weeks, whereas in meat-type turkeys this area decreased from 10. 4% at 8 weeks to 9. 95% at 16 weeks. Our findings show that, when compared to wild-type turkeys, meat-type turkeys have impaired cardiac capillary density and architecture as well as an imbalance in the development of body mass and heart mass.

Increases in bird growth rate, feed efficiency, and breast muscle size are being demanded of breeders, nutritionists, and growers due to the growing global demand for poultry meat. Compared to fifty years ago, turkeys are marketed in roughly half the time and at roughly twice the body weight today [1]. These changes are due mainly to the high heritability of body weight and body meat composition [2]. Due to the increased metabolic demands necessary for extraordinarily quick increases in body mass, some people believe this type of selection has led to the failure of several organ and body systems. It has also decreased the ability of contemporary growing birds to respond to stressors, such as the responses to heat stress in their environment [3].

Turkeys have developed undesirable traits, most likely as a result of the stress brought on by their rapid growth, including numerous circulatory disorders, such as ascites, aortic rupture, spontaneous cardiomyopathy (round heart), and cardiomyopathy causing sudden death, all of which are accompanied by lowered muscle production and/or high mortality [6–9]. One example of a mystery in recent years is the incidence of perirenal hypertrophic cardiomyopathy in flocks of male, rapidly growing turkeys, frequently without a clear causative agent. This is where mortality, which is typically between 20% and 8% of E2%80%9310% weeks, is most common. This is the time frame during which the majority of metabolic stress is linked to rapid muscle development [5]. According to Julian [10], the cardiomyocytes in turkeys with noninfectious cardiovascular disorders can only very limitedly enlarge to meet the increased demand placed on them in response to significant changes in blood pressure and volume as well as a lack of oxygen.

According to Schmidt et al. [11] In comparing contemporary broiler turkey lines with heritage turkey lines, it can be partially explained that contemporary broilers appear to have a lower physiological capacity to accommodate growing skeletal muscle volume due to their low relative heart mass. According to their findings, the modern broiler birds’ hearts (Ross) grew at a rate of 5 mg/g of bird, while the hearts of the heritage line birds (UIUC) grew at a rate of 7 mg/g of bird. When the weight of heritage and contemporary broiler birds was compared, the UIUC hearts were larger than those of the Ross lineage.

Most research on the postnatal growth of the heart in domestic birds has come from the perspectives of pathology [7, 12] and normal development [11]. Similarly, a gross pathology perspective has dominated research on the vascular system morphology of turkeys [5, 13].

The effects of age, gender, and heredity on the heart’s development and the architecture of the cardiac capillaries in turkeys are not well understood. In order to clarify the likely relationships between genetic selection for rapid growth and cardiovascular diseases in turkeys, a comparative analysis of the heart structures of a highly selected meat-type and a wild-type turkey line was conducted. The objective was to compare, during the rapid growth period between 8 and 16 weeks of age, the morphological and microscopic architectural features of the heart and the myocardial capillaries of Canadian wild turkeys to those of a highly genetically selected meat-type domestic turkey line.

The answer to this question might surprise you: turkeys only have one heart. This is true for all birds, including chickens ducks, and geese.

But wait, haven’t you heard of the saying “a turkey has two hearts?” This common phrase is actually a misconception. It likely originated from the fact that turkeys have two large blood vessels, the aorta and the vena cava, which are located close together near the heart. These vessels can appear to be two separate hearts, especially when the turkey is alive and its heart is beating.

So why do we say turkeys have two hearts? The exact reason is unknown but it’s possible that the misconception arose from people observing the two large blood vessels near the heart and mistaking them for two separate hearts. Additionally, the phrase “a turkey has two hearts” is often used metaphorically to describe someone who is very brave or determined. This usage may have further contributed to the misconception.

Here’s a quick breakdown of the facts:

  • Turkeys only have one heart.
  • The misconception likely arose from the two large blood vessels near the heart.
  • The phrase “a turkey has two hearts” is often used metaphorically.

Now, let’s dive a little deeper into the anatomy of a turkey’s heart

A turkey’s heart is a four-chambered organ, similar to a human heart. It has two upper chambers (atria) and two lower chambers (ventricles). The right atrium receives deoxygenated blood from the body and pumps it to the right ventricle. The right ventricle then pumps the deoxygenated blood to the lungs, where it picks up oxygen. The oxygenated blood then returns to the left atrium, which pumps it to the left ventricle. The left ventricle then pumps the oxygenated blood to the rest of the body.

The turkey’s heart is a remarkable organ that plays a vital role in its survival. It pumps blood throughout the body, delivering oxygen and nutrients to the cells and removing waste products.

Here are some additional interesting facts about turkey hearts:

  • Turkey hearts are relatively large compared to the size of the turkey’s body.
  • Turkey hearts beat very quickly, up to 200 beats per minute.
  • Turkey hearts are very efficient at pumping blood.
  • Turkey hearts are a good source of protein and other nutrients.

So, the next time you hear someone say that turkeys have two hearts, you can confidently correct them. Turkeys only have one heart, but it’s a pretty amazing one!

Sample collection and processing

At 8 and 16 weeks of age, 10 birds of each genotype and sex were sampled. Live body masses were measured to an accuracy of 0. 1 kg using a mechanical scale (Sartorius, Göttingen, Germany). Then the birds were killed according to Germany’s animal welfare standards by stunning and exsanguination. The heart of a bird was removed from the carcass as soon as it died and weighed precisely zero. 001 g on an electronic laboratory balance (Sauter-Cumulus, Freiburg, Germany). After that, a sample of a cross section one centimeter wide was cut from the middle of the heart’s base and apex in order to prepare it for morphometric analysis. Here the specimens were washed in 0. 9% sodium chloride solution and fixed in phosphate buffered formalin (4%, pH 7, 24 h, room temperature). They were then dehydrated in a graded series of ethyl alcohol and embedded in paraffin wax. Cut at 5 μm, serial sections were stained with hematoxylin and eosin (H&E) or another stain. [14].

Sections stained with H were used to measure the thickness of the interventricular septum and the ventricular walls in each sample. Thicknesses of each ventricular structure were measured at three different locations at a magnification of 100x ( ). Structure thicknesses are defined as the average value of the 3 measurements.

Furthermore, 25 cardiomyocytes from the left ventricular wall of each bird were measured at a 100x magnification, and the average value was computed. In this case, the diameter and cross sectional area of the cardiomyocytes at the nucleus level were used to calculate their size.

For every bird, the area of interest was defined by selecting five visual fields at random under 400 × magnification in order to calculate the density of the blood capillaries. Only midmyocardial regions with transversely oriented myocytes and circular capillaries were used. The area of each field of view was 34124. 89 μm2. The following parameters in lectin stained slides were then measured using an analyzing system NIS-Elements (Nikon):

  • number of blood capillaries per mm2
  • number of the cardiomyocytes per mm2
  • Intercapillary distance: For every sample, 25 intercapillary distances were measured, beginning with the capillary closest to the field’s center. After measuring 25 distances, the average value was ascertained by manually drawing the shortest path from this capillary wall’s outer circumference to its neighboring capillaries and then outwards from them.
  • percentage of the area occupied by capillaries

Statistical analyses were performed using SPSS for Windows v. 20 software (SPSS, Chicago, IL). The Mann-Whitney U-test, p, was used to compare the groups’ mean values of the parameters that were collected. 05 was considered statistically significant. Results are presented as box-and-whisker plots (median, interquartile range, and range).

Animals, Materials and Methods

This study involving turkey handling and treatments was carried out in accordance with German animal welfare law. The protocol was approved by State Office of Health and Social Affairs Berlin (LaGeSo Reg. Nr. 0218/07).

Forty meat-type turkeys from a highly selected line (British United Turkeys BUT Big 6) (20 male and 20 female) obtained from a commercial grow-out farm (Gut Jäglitz GMBH) and forty wild-type turkeys (Wild Canadian Turkeys) (20 male and 20 female) obtained from a wildlife park (Wild- und Freizeitpark Ostrittrum, Germany) Agrar KG, Roddahn, Germany) were selected as day-old-chicks. This study was approved by the responsible Animal Care Committee (Landesamt für Gesundheit und Soziales Berlin, Germany).

Wild-type and meat-type birds were housed separately in two groups under the same husbandry conditions (10 birds/6. 5 m2), in the Institute of Poultry Diseases, Department of Veterinary Medicine, Freie Universität Berlin. All birds were fed a commercial pellet diet (Ströh Hobbersdorf, Pansdorf, Germany) using a three stage feeding system. Starting feed (type 015) was given for weeks 1 through 6, growers feed (type 016) was given for weeks 7 through 12, and finishers feed I (type 017) was given starting in week 13. All birds were allowed ad libitum access to food and water. The study ended on week 16.

Heart Size Comparison | Animal hearts size | Monster characters Heart Size


What is the heart rate of a turkey?

Weight at hatch
Incubation period
28 days
Range of breeding ages
Well grown pullets from 7 months of age
Healthy characteristics
Body temperature: 40-42°C Heart rate: 180-340 beats per minute

How to cook turkey livers & hearts safely?

It is important to handle turkey livers and hearts safely to prevent any foodborne illnesses. Always wash your hands before and after handling them. Ensure they are cooked to the recommended internal temperature of 160°F (71°C).

Can one have turkey and carrots?

Eating turkey and carrots is part of healthy habits. The turkey has meat like chicken and is another healthy poultry option. Carrots are rich in carotenoids, it is a source of vitamin A, fiber, potassium and vitamin B3.

How many people eat turkey during Thanksgiving?

According to the National Turkey Federation, 95 percent of Americans surveyed eat turkey during Thanksgiving. They also estimate that about 45 million turkeys are consumed each Thanksgiving holiday. This translates to about 675 million pounds of turkey. With that being said, one would think that November would be National Turkey Lovers’ Month.

Do turkeys have a good sense of hearing?

Turkeys have a keen sense of hearing and can pinpoint sounds from as far as a mile away. Touch: Turkeys are highly sensitive to touch in areas such as the beak and feet.

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