The endocast of the Night Parrot (Pezoporus occidentalis) reveals insights into its sensory ecology and the evolution of nocturnality in birds

Andrew N. Iwaniuk, Aubrey R. Keirnan, Heather Janetzki, Karine Mardon, Stephen Murphy, Nicholas P. Leseberg, Vera Weisbecker

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The Night Parrot (Pezoporus occidentalis) is a rare, nocturnal parrot species that has largely escaped scientific investigation due to its behaviour and habitat preferences. Recent field studies have revealed some insights into Night Parrot behaviour, but nothing is known of its sensory abilities. Here, we used μCT scans of an intact Night Parrot specimen to determine if its visual system shares similarities with other nocturnal species. The endocast of the Night Parrot revealed relatively small optic lobes and optic foramina, especially compared with closely related grass parakeets, but no apparent differences in orbit dimensions. Our data suggests that the Night Parrot likely has lower visual acuity than most other parrots, including its congener, the Eastern Ground Parrot (P. wallicus). We propose that the visual system of the Night Parrot might represent a compromise between the need to see under low light conditions and the visual acuity required to detect predators, forage, and fly. Based on the endocast and optic foramen measurements, the Night Parrot fits into a common pattern of decreased retinal input to the optic lobes in birds that should be explored more thoroughly in extant and extinct species.

Original languageEnglish
Article number9258
Number of pages9
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 9 Jun 2020

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  • Evolution
  • Neuroscience
  • Zoology
  • Night parrot


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