why are parrots so long-lived?

Birds usually live much longer than mammals of the same size. Some can live several decades. Among them are parrots. Why are parrots so long-lived?

Simeon Smeele works at the Max Planck Institute for Animal Behavior in Radolfzell, Germany. He explains the particular case of parrots. Their impressive intelligence could be the explanation why they manage to live so many years. An in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences.explains.

why are parrots so long-lived?
why are parrots so long-lived?

Gathering data

The longest-lived parrots live 20 to 30 years, on average. “There are other birds that can do this, but they are much larger, Smeele explained. Earlier hypotheses related to brain size. Larger brains would help in finding food or escaping threats.

To conduct the study, the researchers teamed up with Species360, a nonprofit association. They collected data on more than 130,000 parrots in more than 1,000 zoos around the world. This database helped estimate the average life expectancy of 217 parrot species. It represents more than half of all known species.

why are parrots so long-lived? Observations schematized a great diversity in the life expectancy of parrots. It ranges from an average of two years for the fig parrot to an average of 30 years for the scarlet macaw.

In general, birds live longer than mammals of the same size.
In general, birds live longer than mammals of the same size.

Large brains

The premise that large brains are associated with longer life expectancy was reviewed. Scientists worked on another hypothesis. Relatively large brains take longer to grow and therefore require a longer lifespan. No links were found between longevity and development time.

In the future, the scientists want to delve into more detail. “We believe that species living in complex groups could learn many skills. For example, how to forage, how to become dominant, etc. But this learning would take time and a big brain.”

As for translating this study to humans, Smeele cautions somewhat. “It would be tempting to say that smarter people also live longer. However, this may not be the case. A bigger brain actually burns more energy, and that could be detrimental.”

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