What makes parrots have colorful feathers?

Dr. Peter Mojzeš Institute of Physics of Charles University, Faculty of Mathematics and Physic Charles University and Dr. Jindřich Brejcha Department of Philosophy and History of Science, Faculty of Science, Charles University in Prague – conducted the research on a CIRI beamline, studying how parrots produce the colors of their feathers.

The multi-colored plumage of parrot feathers arouses admiration and delight, but where did all these colors actually come from?  How birds managed to develop such a range of colors and how has it evolved over the centuries? A group of researchers led by Dr. Miguel Carneiro from CIBIO (Research Centre in Biodiversity and Genetic Resources – InBIO Associate Laboratory) in Portugal decided to answer these questions. 

Dr. Jindřich Brejcha explained what their research is about – Specifically, we are interested in molecular differences of polyene pigment contained within parrots’ feathers. We use Raman spectroscopy combined with mass spectroscopy to look at the structure of molecules causing parrot color. However, due to the resonance Raman effect for the excitation throughout the visible region and high Raman cross-section of the C-C and C=C vibrations, only a few Raman bands related to the vibrational modes of the main polyene chain and disproportionately enhanced are visible in the Raman spectra. Raman bands associated with vibrations of functional end groups are hidden in stochastic noise. Hence, to overcome this shortcoming of Raman microscopy while preserving the same spatial resolution, O-PTIR microscopy seems to be a promising candidate method.

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