History and evolution of parrots through the ages

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History and evolution of parrots through the ages

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History and evolution of parrots through the ages

According to recent studies, the origin of parrot evolution of started about 59 million years ago. The evolutionary branch probably originated during the last part of the dinosaur age, before the mass extinction. Scientists have many doubts about what could be considered the first fossil derived from a parrot ancestor, because of the initial coexistence with dinosaurs. However, they agree in locating the beginning of this evolutionary process in Gondwana, the supercontinent which included Antarctica, South America, Africa, Madagascar, and Australia. In fact, today’s largest biodiversity among parrot species is found in these continents.
The link between dinosaurs and parrots was probably the species of the genus Psittacosaurus that lived in late Cretaceous. These dinosaurs belonged to the Ornithischia order (herbivores with a beak) and was distinguished from others for his stocky skull. The tip of the skull consisted of a large beak that resembles the modern parrot rhamphotheca. The beak was coated with keratin and this made it suitable for cutting vegetables. Due to the particular structure of the front limbs, we can deduce that they were already necessarily bipeds. Several fossils of these dinosaurs were found, some of which also included primitive feathers residues: these structures were located on the tail.

History and evolution of parrots through the ages

History and evolution of parrots through the ages

It’s been proposed that initially psittaciformes and passeriformes were not so distinct and formed a single clade. This means that there is close proximity between these two orders, because of a common ancestor that lived during the dinosaur extinction. The oldest fossils that are surely attributable to parrots are dated 50 million years and have been found in several European countries. It should be remembered that during that age Europe had a subtropical climate. Fossils belonging to modern parrot species have been dated about 20 million years ago.
At this point, parrot species have consolidated the distinctive features that made them unique among bird species since the beginning of their evolution. They are equipped with a sturdy hooked beak, capable of exerting high pressures. The capillary innervation of this structure allows parrot to execute fine and delicate movements. An equal coordination is reserved for paws, the arrangement of the fingers (2 forward and 2 behind) defines them as zygodactyls. These features make parrots capable climbers and able to take advantage of their lower limbs for eating too. Also, parrot orders include species with the most various and glowing colors: a plumage of this kind is due to the structural peculiarities of their feathers, not found in other birds.
Currently parrots are grouped into 3 superfamilies, a taxonomical grade that reunites families that share distinctive characters and origins. They are classified in Psittacoidea, Cacatuoidea and Strigopoidea.
In the Psittacoidea we find the most typical parrots, they are in fact called “real parrots”. These species populate several tropical and sub-tropical habitats around the world, most of which are located in the southern hemisphere. Among the commonly known species there are macaws, conures, lories, eclectus parrots, amazons, african grey parrots and budgerigars.
In the Cacatuoidea, as the name suggests, the various cacatua species are grouped together. These particular parrots are characterized by an erectile crest on their head. The crest is integral part of their body language. Plumage color range is reduced due to the lack of the so-called “Dyck texture” that gives blue and green colors to their cousins. They are also distinguished from other parrots because of the presence of gallbladder and other small anatomical details.
The Strigopoidea are parrots from New Zealand characterized by a high adaptation to their native islands. One in particular, the kakapo, has even lost the ability to fly because of the lack of predators. Human colonization of these islands has endangered Strigopoidea species with the introduction of predatory pets such as dogs and cats, not mentioning the concomitant habitat destruction. Norfolk’s kaka extinguished in the mid XIX century for these reasons while the kakapo species has only about 100 survivors nowadays.

History and evolution of parrots through the ages

History and evolution of parrots through the ages

Fortunately, the encounter between man and parrot during history was not necessarily so disastrous. The parrot figure has been known for thousands of years. In Moche culture (I-VII century AD, Perù) for example, they were even worshipped and nowadays we can find them depicted in the artistic productions of these civilizations. In Western culture, they are mentioned in both Greek and Latin literature, by Aesopus and Ovid respectively. In every age and for centuries, the human interest in parrots arises from their ability to imitate sounds but also from their remarkable intelligence and unique colors. The natural propensity to reproduce our language also gives rise to interest and wonder today, so we decided to dedicate an article to the subject, stay tuned to find out more!
In conclusion, the current relationship between man and parrot is much more than the one between owner and pet. It’s a wider concept that aims to species conservation and safeguard. Legislation is crucial to this purpose and every owner must always have all the documents required for detention. Species conservation is also based on this aspect and that puts in our hands the safeguard of these wonderful animals. Also, sustainable development and waste reduction aims to preserve biodiversity. This includes hundreds of parrot species that took thousands of years to develop: we can’t afford to lose them.

Follow the new article “Reproduction”——->>> http://www.parrotsforfriends.com/?p=474&lang=en   

 

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