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Recalibrating the BS detector

On tumblr, where I spend an increasing amount of my online time, I keep seeing a post about Gouldian finch chicks. It claims that these birds have phosphorescent spots on the sides of their bills to help guide the parents to the baby's food hole. We have, and breed, Gouldian finches where I work, and I'd never heard of this. Surely if we had baby birds with glow in the dark spots on their faces someone would have mentioned it to me.

So when I was at Bird's World recently, I told the keepers there about this ridiculous tumblr post. "Yes," they said in chorus, "you can see it right now if you want."

 photo P1010946_zpsdoze5nc6.jpg
So a coworker pulled down a nest box, opened it up, and let me see the glow.

 photo P1010947_zpsppw0y6uu.jpg
The effect is even more striking when the chicks' mouths are open, but you get the idea. However, a quick side trip to wikipedia quashes our fantasies of a bioluminescent bird:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gouldian_finch
"Very young birds, like many other species of Australian cavity-nesting finches, have a variety of odd features in and around their mouths including a "palate marked in the fashion of a domino" and several "prominent rounded tubercles" with an "opalescent lustre" at the back of the gape. These tubercles are commonly (and incorrectly) described as phosphorescent in spite of much scientific evidence to the contrary.[4] It is believed that these tubercles simply reflect light and are not luminescent.[4] Scientists have hypothesized that this domino-like palate and striking tubercles may facilitate feeding within the dark confines of a nest cavity, although no experiments have been conducted to support this idea."

footnote [4] is: http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/2421636?sid=21105707320511&uid=4&uid=2

Comments

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
buboniclou
Mar. 20th, 2015 03:51 am (UTC)
You get bonus points for citations!
dragonwrites
Mar. 24th, 2015 09:40 am (UTC)
Sweet!
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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