The plumages of parrots provide some of the most striking colouration in nature.We summarise the diversity of mechanisms producing colour in parrots and the current evidence for the adaptive significance of variation in the colour of parrot plumages. Only recently have detailed studies begun to unravel the mechanisms of their colour-production and colour vision systems. Parrots produce much of their plumage colouration through a unique suite of pigments (psittacofulvins), or through a feather tissue nanostructure that results in coherent scattering of light, or a combination of the two (producing green). Psittacofulvins are found nowhere else in nature, and may even generate fluorescence in many parrot species.Compared with other avian taxa, the adaptive significance of parrot plumage colouration remains poorly understood, although some studies suggest that plumage colouration may form important sexual signals and may be used in mate-choice by several species. There is evidence to suggest that parrot colouration can be subject to both environmental and genetic control. We emphasise that parrots offer a distinctive and useful colouration system for further study. Further research is required to unravel how the dramatic colour patterns of parrots evolved, and what roles colour signals may play in the life histories of parrots.
Field of Research
060399 Evolutionary Biology not elsewhere classified
Socio Economic Objective
960805 Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity at Regional or Larger Scales
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