Blue Bugerigar

Blue Aussie budgerigar gene found, according to reports in Science (AAAS) News and ScienceDaily 5 October 2017 and Cell, doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2017.08.016, 5 October 2017.

Budgerigars are small Australian parrots that are commonly kept as pets. In the wild they are mostly green with a yellow head and throat, but a variant with a blue body and a white head is popular for many pet owners.

Researchers at Stanford University have now identified the basis of the blue variant – a single amino acid change in an enzyme that produces a pigment known as a psittacofulvin. Psittacofulvins are red, orange and yellow pigments found only in parrots. The vivid colours in parrots come from a combination of psittacofulvins and structural colour, i.e. colour produced by refraction of light from microscopic ridges on the feather surface. Green budgerigars produce a yellow psittacofulvin, which combines with blue structural colour to produce green feathers on the body. Birds with the amino acid change do not produce the yellow pigment, but do have the blue structural colour, and therefore have blue body feathers.

The scientists sequenced DNA from 234 budgerigars, including 105 blue birds, and identified the gene responsible for the pigment producing enzyme, and found a mutated version in the blue birds. To confirm that the gene is responsible for the pigment producing enzyme they inserted normal and mutated versions into yeast cells. Yeasts containing the normal gene produced the pigment, but yeasts containing the mutated version from the blue birds did not.

The researchers claim their discovery will help map the evolution of parrots.

Science, ScienceDaily

Editorial Comment: These scientists have cleverly identified a gene that produces blue colour in parrots, but they have not found how that gene came into existence. The experiment with the yeast confirms it takes intervention by a creative designer to give a living cell a new function.

The study of the blue birds has only shown what happens when the gene is mutated, i.e. it is rendered useless and does not produce any pigment. Therefore, the study of pigment variations in budgerigars will not show how parrots are evolving, but how they are degenerating.

The results of this study are a good example of Biblical biology, i.e. creative design to produce the pigment in the original parrots when the world was created very good, followed by mutations resulting in loss of function as the world has degenerated due to human sin and God’s judgement.

For those with a bizarre sense of Aussie humour: one of our national foods is a black salty yeast extract regarded almost universally (except by Australians) as inedible. Keep watching for yellow Vegemite!

Evidence News vol. 17, No. 20 22 November 2017 Creation Research Australia

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