name = Galloanserans
fossil_range = Campanian - Recent

image_width = 240px
image_caption = Chickens are a well-known member of this ancient clade
regnum = Animalia
phylum = Chordata
classis = Aves
subclassis = Neornithes
infraclassis = Neognathae
superordo= Galloanserae
superordo_authority = Sibley, Ahlquist & Monroe, 1988
subdivision_ranks = Orders
subdivision =

and see text
synonyms =Galloanseri

Most or all birds collectively referred to as fowl belong to one of two orders, namely the gamefowl or landfowl (Galliformes) and the waterfowl (Anseriformes). Interestingly, studies of anatomical and molecular similarities suggest these two groups were close evolutionary relatives; together, they form the fowl clade which is scientifically known as Galloanserae (initially termed Galloanseri) [Sibley "et al." (1988)] . This clade is also supported by morphological and DNA sequence data [Chubb (2004)] as well as retrotransposon presence/absence data [Kriegs "et al." (2007)] .


As opposed to "fowl", "poultry", on the other hand, is a term for any kind of domesticated bird or bird captive-raised for meat or eggs; ostriches for example are sometimes kept as poultry, but are neither gamefowl nor waterfowl. In colloquial speech, the term "fowl" is however often used near-synonymously with "poultry" or even "bird", and many languages do not distinguish between "poultry" and "fowl". Nonetheless, the fact that Galliformes and Anseriformes most likely form a monophyletic group makes a distinction between "fowl" and "poultry" warranted.

Many birds that are eaten by humans are fowl, including poultry such as chickens or turkeys, game birds such as pheasants or partridges, other wildfowl like guineafowl or peafowl, and waterfowl such as ducks or geese.


While they are extremely diverse ecologically and consequently, in an adaptation to their different lifestyles, also morphologically and ethologically, there are still some features which unite water- and landfowl. Many of these, however, are plesiomorphic for Neornithes as a whole, and are also shared with paleognaths.
*Galloanserae are very prolific; they regularly produce clutches of more than 5 or even more than 10 eggs, which is a lot for such sizeable birds. For example birds of prey and pigeons rarely lay more than two eggs.
*While most living birds are monogamous, at least for a breeding season, many Galloanserae are notoriously polygynous or polygamous. To ornithologists, this is particularly well-known in dabbling ducks, where the males literally band together occasionally to "gang rape" unwilling females. The general public is probably most familiar with the polygynous habits of domestic chicken, where usually one or two roosters are kept with a whole flock of females.
*Hybridization is extremely frequent in Galloanserae, and genera, not usually known to produce viable hybrids in birds, can be brought to interbreed with comparative ease. Guineafowl have successfully produced hybrids with domestic fowl and Blue Peafowl, to which are not particularly closely related as Galliformes go. This is an important factor complicating mtDNA sequence-based research on their relationships. The Mallards of North America, for example, are apparently mostly derived from some males which arrived from Siberia, settled down, and mated with American Black Duck ancestors [Kulikova "et al." (2005)] . "See also" Gamebird hybrids.
*Galloanserae young are remarkably precocious. Anseriform young are able to swim and dive a few hours after hatching, and the hatchlings of mound-builders are fully feathered and even able to fly for prolonged distances as soon as they emerge from the nest mound.

ystematics and evolution

Fowl were the first neognath lineages to evolve. From the limited fossils that have to date been recovered, the conclusion that they were already widespread - indeed the predominant group of modern birds - by end of the Cretaceous is generally accepted nowadays. Fossils such as "Vegavis" indicate that essentially modern waterfowl - albeit belonging to a nowadays extinct lineage - were contemporaries of the (non-avian) dinosaurs. As opposed to the morphologically fairly conservative Galliformes, the Anseriformes have adapted to filter-feeding and are characterized by a large number of autapomorphies related to this lifestyle. The extremely advanced feeding systems of the Anseriformes, together with similarities of the early anseriform "Presbyornis" to shorebirds, had formerly prompted some scientists to ally Anseriformes with Charadriiformes instead [Benson (1999), Feduccia (1999)] ("see also" "Graculavidae") [EvoWiki (2008)] . However, as strong support for the Galloanserae has emerged in subsequent studies, the fowl clade continues to be accepted as a genuine evolutionary lineage by the vast majority of scientists.

Apart from the living members, the Gastornithiformes are probably a prehistoric member of the Galloanserae.



*aut|Benson, D. (1999): "Presbyornis isoni" and other late Paleocene birds from North Dakota. "Smithsonian Contributions to Paleobiology" 89: 253-266.
*aut|Chubb, A. (2004): New nuclear evidence for the oldest divergence among neognath birds: the phylogenetic utility of ZENK(i). "Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution" 30: 140-151
*aut|EvoWiki (2008): [ Galloanserae: A Critical Examination] . Version of 2008-05-21. Retrieved 2008-06-15.
*aut|Feduccia, A. (1999): "The Origin and Evolution of Birds, Second Edition". Yale University Press, New Haven.
*aut|Kriegs, Jan Ole; Matzke, Andreas; Churakov, Gennady; Kuritzin, Andrej; Mayr, Gerald; Brosius, Jürgen & Schmitz, Jürgen (2007): Waves of genomic hitchhikers shed light on the evolution of gamebirds (Aves: Galliformes). "BMC Evolutionary Biology" 7: 190 ( [ Fulltext] ).
*aut|Kulikova, Irina V.; Drovetski, S.V.; Gibson, D.D.; Harrigan, R.J.; Rohwer, S.; Sorenson, Michael D.; Winker, K.; Zhuravlev, Yury N. & McCracken, Kevin G. (2005): Phylogeography of the Mallard ("Anas platyrhynchos"): Hybridization, dispersal, and lineage sorting contribute to complex geographic structure. "Auk" 122 (3): 949-965. [English with Russian abstract] DOI: 10.1642/0004-8038(2005)122 [0949:POTMAP] 2.0.CO;2 [ PDF fulltext] . Erratum: "Auk" 122 (4): 1309. DOI: 10.1642/0004-8038(2005)122 [0949:POTMAP] 2.0.CO;2
*aut|Sibley, C.G.; Ahlquist, J.E. & Monroe, B.L. (1988): A classification of the living birds of the world based on DNA-DNA hybridization studies. "Auk" 105: 409-423.

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Fowl — (foul), n. Note: Instead of the pl. {Fowls} the singular is often used collectively. [OE. foul, fowel, foghel, fuhel, fugel, AS. fugol; akin to OS. fugal D. & G. vogel, OHG. fogal, Icel. & Dan. fugl, Sw. fogel, f[*a]gel, Goth. fugls; of unknown… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • fowl — /fowl/, n., pl. fowls, (esp. collectively) fowl, v. n. 1. the domestic or barnyard hen or rooster; chicken. Cf. domestic fowl. 2. any of several other, usually gallinaceous, birds that are barnyard, domesticated, or wild, as the duck, turkey, or… …   Universalium

  • fowl — fowl; fowl·er; gare·fowl; sheld·fowl; wa·ter·fowl·er; wa·ter·fowl·ing; …   English syllables

  • Fowl — Fowl, v. i. [imp. & p. p. {Fowled}; p. pr. & vb. n. {Fowling}.] To catch or kill wild fowl, for game or food, as by shooting, or by decoys, nets, etc. [1913 Webster] Such persons as may lawfully hunt, fish, or fowl. Blackstone. [1913 Webster]… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • fowl — [faul] n plural fowl or fowls [U and C] [: Old English; Origin: fugel] 1.) a bird, such as a chicken, that is kept for its meat and eggs, or the meat of this type of bird 2.) old use any bird …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • fowl — [ faul ] (plural fowl or fowls) noun count 1. ) a bird that is kept on a farm for its eggs and meat, for example a chicken or a DUCK 2. ) an old word for bird => FISH1 …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

  • fowl — ► NOUN (pl. same or fowls) 1) (also domestic fowl) a domesticated bird derived from a junglefowl and kept for its eggs or flesh; a cock or hen. 2) any domesticated bird, e.g. a turkey or duck. 3) birds collectively, especially as the quarry of… …   English terms dictionary

  • fowl — [foul] n. pl. fowls or fowl [ME foule, foghel < OE fugol, akin to Ger vogel, bird < Gmc * fuglaz, altered by dissimulation < * fluglaz < * flug , *fleug < IE * pleuk > FLY1] 1. any bird: now only in combination [wildfowl] 2. any …   English World dictionary

  • fowl — (n.) O.E. fugel bird, representing the general Germanic word for them, from P.Gmc. *foglaz (Cf. O.Fris. fugel, O.N. fugl, M.Du. voghel, Du. vogel, Ger. vogel, Goth. fugls), probably by dissimilation from *flug la , lit. flyer, from the same root… …   Etymology dictionary

  • fowl — The collective use of the singular form is now largely restricted to compounds such as guineafowl and wildfowl …   Modern English usage

  • fowl|er — «FOW luhr», noun. a person who hunts, shoots, catches, or traps wild birds …   Useful english dictionary

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