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Conservation Research: Species360 Member Data Crucial to Unravelling the Mystery of Parrot Longevity

A recent study used data from the Species360 Zoological Information Management Systems (ZIMS) to determine the link between brain size and life expectancy in parrots.

Data from the Species360 Zoological Information Management System (ZIMS) has been crucial in enabling researchers to investigate the correlation between brain size and life expectancy in parrots. 

Parrots are well-known for their intelligence and long lives, with lifespans and relative brain size on par with primates. However, until now, little research has been conducted on understanding the link between longevity and brain size in parrots. 

Researchers from the Species360 Conservation Science Alliance, the Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior (MPI-AB), and the University of Southern Denmark used detailed zoo records from the Zoological Information Management System (ZIMS) to compile data on 133,818 individuals across 244 parrot species. The results have been published in an open-access paper titled, ‘Coevolution of relative brain size and life expectancy in parrots’ in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

The first-of-its-kind study found a clear link between relative brain size and life expectancy in parrots, suggesting that larger brain size and cognitive ability may have helped parrots handle threats in their environment, including predation, thereby living longer lives. 

The researchers were able to estimate life expectancy for 217 species of parrot, across an extensive range, from the smallest and shortest-lived species like the fig parrot – with a two-year life expectancy – to the large scarlet macaw, which lives an average of 30 years. 

The fig parrot, native to Australia is a shorter-lived species, with an average lifespan of two years.

The study was led by Species360 Conservation Science Alliance guest PhD student, Simeon Smeele, and co-authors include Species360 Director of Science, and Head of the Conservation Science Alliance, Prof. Dalia Conde, and  Dr. Johanna Staerk, postdoctoral research associate and member of the Conservation Science Alliance. 

The Conservation Science Alliance is a central part of Species360, working to harness the value of data found in ZIMS and other sources of global data for the advancement of science and species conservation. 

Prof. Dalia Conde, said, “Data from the Species360 Zoological Information Management System (ZIMS) was crucial in doing this large-scale comparative analysis. This study is particularly unique because it used a larger sample size than previous studies, which was possible due to the vast amount of data in ZIMS that has been shared by Species360 members. In addition, the data from ZIMS enabled us to create a robust methodology for comparative life-history analysis.” 

The data from this study has provided researchers with a better understanding of parrots and the links between their brain size and life expectancy. Having data on life expectancy and other life-history variables for hundreds of species will hopefully aid future conservation efforts for this globally threatened order.

This study has been made possible thanks to the more than 1,300 Species360 member institutions that regularly collect and curate data on wildlife worldwide. Species360’s ZIMS program is the largest database of animal knowledge globally, which is crucial to unlocking key insights into species to aid in their care and conservation. However, there is still so much to be learnt about wildlife, and the global information network of Species360 and its members holds the key to unlocking new knowledge about species. 

Species360 gratefully thanks the main sponsoring partners of the Conservation Science Alliance: Copenhagen Zoo, Mandai Wildlife Group (Singapore), and the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA). The sponsoring partners are vital to enabling the work of the Conservation Science Alliance. 

To read the open-access article, click here.

Read more about the Species360 Conservation Science Alliance.

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