Science News Explores-May 2023
English | 36 pages | pdf | 8.11 MB

A The structure of bird feathers makes them ideal for displaying bright colors, says Klara Norden. She researches bird feathers at Princeton University in New Jersey. Feathers are
wider and more flexible than mammal hair, which has allowed them to evolve into different shapes and displays. “It’s a more flexible canvas for the color to be put on than hair,” Norden says. Some bird feathers, like those of a red male cardinal or pink flamingo, get their pigments from the food birds eat. The shimmery blue of peacock feathers, meanwhile, arises from the way light reflects off those feathers’ unique structure. Birds may have evolved such eye-catching colors because, unlike some other animals, they have superb color vision. And this adaptation may have been around since at least the time of birds’ ancestors — a group of meat-eating dinosaurs called theropods. “That makes it more likely that you would evolve showy colors, because you can see them,” Norden says, “and [birds have] had really good color vision for a long time in evolutionary history.”

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