RESEARCHERS SOLVE MYSTERY OF RED COLOR IN BIRDS
Scientists say they have solved a long-standing mystery about what makes some birds red — a color that, when found in beaks and feathers, shows strong sex appeal.
The genes affecting coloration belong to a wider family of genes involved in detoxification, said the study in the journal Current Biology.
That means redness may be a sign of a robust, quality mate who can easily cleanse harmful substances from his body.
Birds like canaries and zebra finches eat seeds, fruit and insects that provide yellow pigments, known as carotenoids.
Some birds are able to convert the yellow molecules to red ones — known as ketocarotenoids — using enzymes that are active in the eyes of red and yellow birds, as well as in their feathers and skin.
“It was quite a surprise that the same genes are involved both in seeing red colors and making red coloration.