A macaw called Poncho featured in films such as “102 Dalmatians”, “Dr. Doolittle” and “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective” before retiring in England. She recently celebrated her 90th birthday.
Alex, an African gray parrot who lived 31 years, knew colors, shapes and numbers and communicated using basic expressions. He could do what little children only do after a certain stage of development – know when something is hidden to see.
And they are just two of the many parrots in the world who have been surprised by their intelligence, skills and lifespan.
So he and a team of almost two dozen scientists were looking for clues in the genome of the blistered Amazon parrot in Brazil, his homeland.
After comparing its genome with tens of other birds, scientists find that development may have made parrots something like the people in the birds.
In some ways, the long-lived feathered friends are as genetically different from other birds as humans are from other primates. Their analysis, published Thursday in Current Biology, also illustrates how two very different animals – parrots and humans – can find similar solutions to problems through evolution.
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A general rule about the life span of birds and other animals is the bigger or heavier you are the longer you live. A small bird like a fine can live five to eight years, while bigger like eagles or cranes can live for decades. Blue Amazon and some other parrots are even more exceptional, as they can live up to 66 years – in some cases, their human companions survive.
In his analysis, Dr Mello and his colleagues found that these parrots and some other long-lived birds shared changes in a set of 344 genes that seem to be involved in different processes that affect life, such as how an animal’s body is repairing DNA, managing cancer or controlling cell growth.
Although about 20 of these genetic changes have been implicated in aging in other animals, the rest of the genes’ direct role in life has not been investigated. Future studies can reveal that they are not only important for aging in parrots or other long-lived birds, but also in other animals.
Parrots are appointed not only for their longevity but also of their cognitive abilities.  “They are really, really wise animals, and the brains are particularly big. We seem to see a parallel in people who have bigger brains and improved abilities compared to other animals,” he says. “We think parrots are parallel in the aviary the world. “
The team found changes in parts of the parrot tree that are very similar to those who put people from other primates.
This fascinated Dr. Mello. The similar changes that occur in parrots and humans are not for the genes themselves, but occur along the regions of the genome that regulates the expression of related genes that seem to play a role in brain development and intelligence.
Can these changes explain the parrot’s big complex brain and different sets of talents?
Only by looking at specific ones can we take find out. Although it is relatively easier to quantify age and see how different genetic changes can change it, it is harder to judge how small breakers that turn on and off on certain occasions can change the size of a parrot’s brain – or how well it may challenge Matthew McConaughey.
By looking at specifications in the genetic changes of parrots and humans, researchers in the future can develop a better understanding of the forces of converging evolution.
Perhaps there is only one path that leads to complex brain structures and advanced cognitive abilities like parrots and humans. Or it may be that there is more than one evolutionary way that can produce such complex beings in different parts of the animal kingdom.