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Conspicuous, ultraviolet-rich mouth colours in begging chicks
journal contributionposted on 2003-08-07, 00:00 authored by S Hunt, R M Kilner, N E Langmore, Andy Bennett
There is as yet no clear consensus on the function of vivid mouth colours in begging chicks. A major obstacle to our understanding has been that no studies have measured gape colours independently of human colour perception. Here, we present the first study, to our knowledge, to use UV-VIS spectrometry to quantify the gape colour, background nest colour and nest light environment of eight European passerines. Both mouths and the surrounding flanges show striking and previously unreported peaks of reflectance in the ultraviolet, coupled with high long-wavelength reflectance responsible for the human-visible appearance of the gape. High ultraviolet reflectance is likely to have an important effect on the conspicuousness of nestling mouths, since contrast with the nest background is maximal in the ultraviolet. Furthermore, the dual-peak nature of the spectra suggests that gapes are avian non-spectral colours analogous to human purple.