You know that weird, floppy bit of skin that hangs off the face of a male turkey? That's called a snood, and it's used to impress lady turkeys. In a process that should sound at least somewhat familiar, the snood fills with blood, growing in size, and turning rather red. This animation, based on CT scans, shows how the snood is connected to the blood vessels that allow it to engorge. (Even though using the word "engorge" that makes the turkey sound like a character in a really bad romance novel.) Thanks to Ohio University's Witmer Lab for the animation!
There's lots more Thanksgiving-related science where that came from. Some of my favorite links (so far) are below. If you've seen something cool that I missed, let me know in the comments and I'll add it in. The goal: Enough holiday-themed nerdy joy to get us all through the long waits at the airport, multi-state car rides, awkward family get-togethers, and post-dinner partial comas. Let us all give thanks for science!
•The Genetics of White Meat and Dark Meat from Scientific American (Thanks, Erin Biba!)
•Tyrannosaurus Rex Had a Wishbone from Smithsonian's Dinosaur Tracking blog
•Why Arsenic is Used in Turkey Processing, and Why It's Not Worth the Risk, an LA Times essay by Deborah Blum, author of The Poisoner's Handbook
•A Genetically Modified Thanksgiving from Popular Science
•The Genetic Origins of Snood Erections from The Annals of Improbable Resarch
•A 3-Dimensional Cosehedron-Shaped Pecan Pie, and other Thanksgiving DIY projects from Popular Mechanics
&bull:Full Text of a 1969 Study On Frozen Turkey Semen and its Ability to Successfully Impregnate Female Turkeys (Thanks to Michael R. Shaughnessy!)
•It's Not Actually the Tryptophan Making You Sleepy and other turkey facts from mental_floss' Matt Soniak
•How to Turn Leftover Turkey Fryer Oil into Biodiesel, a post-dinner recipe from Planet Green
•A Whole Episode of the Science Jim Show dedicated to Thanksgiving, turkeys and Benjamin Franklin
More to come!
And, if your holiday plans put you in Washington D.C., remember, the Smithsonian museums are open tomorrow!
Maggie Koerth-Baker is the science editor at BoingBoing.net. She writes a monthly column for The New York Times Magazine and is the author of Before the Lights Go Out, a book about electricity, infrastructure, and the future of energy. You can find Maggie on Twitter and Facebook.