Red canary + yellow canary = alien?

For such lovely animals, songbirds create some very bizarre looking offspring (sometimes lovingly called "gutsacks"). Is this a young canary, or a xenomorph larva fresh from the Alien franchise?

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This is from the research colony I maintained at Auburn University. Here, I crossed a "red factor" red canary with a yellow canary, which produces red or deep orange offspring. These are the sorts of crosses that led to the Hill Lab and collaborators isolating the "redness gene" in songbirds:

Lopes et al. 2016, Genetic basis for red coloration in birds. Current Biology 26:1–8.

It turns out that there are TWO genes required for birds to have red feathers, and babies that inherit just one will be orange, regardless of the activity of their red-pigment-producing enzymes!

Rebecca Koch

Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Monash University

I am currently studying Drosophila evolutionary genetics and behavior in the Dowling Lab at Monash University (Melbourne, VIC, Australia), though my background is in avian behavioral ecology. I performed my doctoral research in the Hill Lab at Auburn University (Auburn, AL, USA). Hello from Australia!