Name giving of mutation factor and colour variety

Example: Name giving of the opaline, a case study

I was lucky to breed the first yellow opaline turquoisine in Holland in 1968. I developed a strain of this colour variety. It was the first mutation of the turquoisine in Holland. The yellow turquoisine (light green pastel) was imported from England for the first time in 1972
First I had to discover the inheritance if it was a real mutation. It was! The inheritance was sex linked. Afterwards I had to choose a name. In different feather fields the colour green was replaced by yellow. There was much variance in the spreading of the yellow colour in the offspring. In the beginning the yellow spot on the back was small. Later on the whole upper and lower back was yellow. This was the reason to give the name yellow pied. It seemed to me the best name for this new colour variety.

In 1972 an opaline mutation took place in the Bourke’s parakeet. The first rose opaline Bourke was born in the aviary of Goossens, Holland. He named him rose Bourke.
Many years later there was a convincing that opaline was maybe a better name for the yellow pied turquoisine. The name opaline was borrowed from the opaline budgerigar. First I hesitated to accept this, because an opal was to me a semi precious stone, not exactly what I had in mind, when I observed my yellow birds. Also the rose Bourke turned out to be an opaline.

In Holland and Germany, it took a long time before breeders were used to this name opaline to the Bourke. The name opaline turquoisine is general adopted in a more early stadium, but the rose opaline Bourke is, at the marketplace, still called “rose” (Holland) or “Rosa” (Germany)) or rosy (England).

In the beginning the name opaline in the budgerigar was a colour description too. The first owner of the opaline budgerigar had the same problem as I had, how to find a name that gives a good description of the appearance of the new colour variety. In 1933 Mr. Terrill bought on a marketplace, in Adelaide, South Australia a peculiar budgerigar. He named him pied. Later on he changed this name in marbled. When he heard that this kind of bird in England was named opaline. This name was accepted by the Budgerigar Society so he accepted this new name.

differences opaline Bourke-Turquoisine

Opaline characterisics in different parrots

Today there is a lot of information about the opaline. One of the new resources is the beautiful illustrated book of Dr. Terry Martin, Colour mutations and genetics (2002). The idea is that the same eumelanin characteristics are seen in the colour variety of different species like the Bourke, the Turquoisine, the Red rump and the Cockatiel. This is the result of due to another distribution pattern of eumelanin in the plumage. The down of the young is white, enhanced under wing stripe in both sexes, and a sex linked inheritance.

My conclusion is that the name opaline first was chosen as a pure description of the colour. The name opaline is used now as a name of a class of characteristics of the eumelanin in the plumage. Further development made several colour series possible. Again the colour description was a good instrument for name giving. The first opaline Bourke was rose. Different colour varieties are developed yet. The colour varieties of the Bourke can be classified in five colour series. Now there are white ,yellow, red , blue and green opaline Bourke. All have in common the characteristics of the eumelanin. But they differ in the other colouring elements: the psittacine pigments, red and yellow, and the feather structure. In the Budgerigar and the Turquoisine there are other colours developed also. For instance, the blue opaline Budgerigar, the red bellied and red fronted Turquoisine. The blue opaline Budgerigar is caused by a combination of total loss of the yellow pigment and a new distribution of the melanin. The red fronted Turquoisine is developed from an extension of the red pigment and another distribution of melanin. The blue and green Bourke are developed by the combination of extension of feathers of the structural type, an extension of the yellow pigment in back, rump and tail and another distribution of the eumelanin.

A good descriptive name can be a combination of the colour name supplemented by the name of the eumelanin characteristics. For instance: rose opaline Bourke, red fronted opaline Turquoisine, blue opaline Budgerigar etc.


Another name giving for mutation factors is needed

The development did go further. The name opaline is used to the mutation factor also. This is a pity. There is a big difference between a colour variety and a mutation factor. This has to be expressed in the name giving.

Terms mutation, mutation factor and colour variety

1. A mutation is a transformation of the DNA. The whole DNA is divided in parts, the chromosomes. This are the places where the genes are located. A colour mutation is altering one of these genes. Such a mutation is happening by accident.
2. A mutation factor (mutant gene or allele) is replacing the gene of the wild type bird. It is not so easy to find the altered gene. Biologists try to locate the position (the locus) the mutation factor upon the autosomale chromosomes or the sex chromosome.
3. A colour variety is a different coloured plumage of the bird as compared with the wild type.

Mutation factor and colour variety are very different things. A mutation factor is part of the genotype, the sum of genetic qualities. The mutation factor (allele)) is the cause of the change of colour and colour structure of the plumage. A colour variety is the phenotype, the visual appearance of the bird. A new colour variety is a consequence, a result of a mutation. When we use the same name for both this is not logical and can be very confusing.

Reasons to use two different names

1. The effect of a same mutation factor on the colour of the plumage of different species is always depending of the other colouring genes of the species.
For instance: A mutation factor causes a total loss of red and yellow pigments. This has a complete other effect in a light green Budgerigar then in a brown Bourke. The Budgerigar is showing a blue colour variety, the brown Bourke is losing the rose belly and the rose undulations on the breast. If this mutation factor will appear in the future the Bourke will be brown even more brown then before. In the Cockatiel there is also another effect. He is losing the orange spot on the head and his plumage is losing the yellow colour. A white face Cockatiel is the result.

Today almost everybody is using the same name blue for the blue colour variety of the Budgerigar and for the mutation factor. This factor is called blue factor, Taylor and Warner, (1961) Because writers followed Taylor and Warner in this case, the name blue gene, blue factor is established. But Taylor wrote that he used this name as "a matter of convenience", not because it was the most proper name. In fact it is an "absence of yellow" factor. (pg.7).

When we use a name that expresses a total loss of psittacine pigments the Budgerigar, but also for the Cockatiel, the Rose Cockatoo and all other not-green parrots, the effect of this factor will be clear for everyone. The wildtype yellow Cockatiel becomes a white and grey Cockatiel (white face), the rose wildtype Galah becomes white and grey (white fronted). Also for the understanding of the influence this mutation factor has in green birds it is a better name. When losing the yellow pigment in green birds the other two colouring elements, the eumelanin and the blue structure are colouring the plumage. All shades of blue are possible. In the Red rumped-parrot the cock will be blue, but the hen will be grey because she has no blue structure and no green plumage.

The greatest benefit for the use of a better name for this total loss of psittacine is that there is no need to use names like: blue Galah for the white fronted, blue Cockatiel for the white face and blue Lutino in stead of albino. Because the effect of a mutation factor always depends off all the colouring qualities it is not appropriate to derive the name of the mutation factor from the name of the colour variety.

2. Otherwise the name of a colour variety should not be derived from the name of a mutation factor. We saw this already (1) But there is another reason. It is possible that two different mutation factors give about the same new appearance. This we find in the lutino colour variety. There is a sex linked inheriting factor. For example the splendid and a recessive inheriting factor For example the elegant. In both colour varieties the melanin is lost. In the plumage and in the eyes. But the cause is very different.

If a same mutation factor gives different colour varieties(1) and different mutation factors can give a same appearance (2), both can't have the same name. This is very confusing because it is logical paradox.

3. A proper name of a colour variety should give a good description. The name of the colour variety is a name for the changed appearance, the phenotype of the bird. The name is given mostly by the fancier that developed the colour variety. The first choice in name giving is the point of reference. This can be the colour of the plumage as a whole. Or a special feather field. We have to observe carefully to find the most characteristic change. Bird fanciers are mostly good observers. In communication with other mutation breeders a proper name is very important.

4. Colouring is a process that is under strict genetic control. Why does this control fails? The proper name of the mutation factor should be informative and give an explanation and supports prediction of the effects on the plumage. In this way research can be a big help for the praxis. The phrase that a blue plumage is caused by a blue gene is meaningless. The praxis expect more that this from research.

5. Giving the same name to both, the mutation factor and the colour variety, is an admission of the fact that there is a big difference between the research level (genetics) and praxis (breeding, experimental mating, observing, description).

6. It is supposed that mutation factors in different species can be the same. Name giving of mutation factors should be systematic. Name giving of colour varieties is never systematic. The best of the colour names are proper descriptive names. But there are also advertising names, fantasy names. Once I bought an elegant. The owner said to me: I can recommand this bird because: The grandfather of this young was the famous elegant "with the blue spectacles". Praxis can't be an adequate base for giving names for the mutation factors. Deriving the name of a mutation factor from the name of colour variety is inconsistent with the purpose of systematic name giving.

7. Good names are very important in the international communication. A colour name is easy to translate. It is not useful to introduce English names in Holland and other countries for example: A dun fallow. Dun (English = mouse grey). Every fancier can judge if a name like this is a good chosen name. Breeders who have not a thorough comment of the English language should not be side lined. They can use the local colour names. Biologists and researchers can find the most appropriate names for the dysfunction of genes. The names of mutation factors can be English names.

8. A colour name can be classified in a colour series. A suitable name for a mutation factor can be classified in three main groups: M- factors, S-factors and P-factors. A well organised view of all mutation factors and colour varieties can be a significant help for the mutation breeder.


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Copyright 2003 by Bob Fregeres

E-mail: fregeres@bourkes-parakeet.nl

12/23/03