Matthew Toomey, "A bird's-eye view of visual ecology: shared biochemical mechanisms underlie visual function and color diversification"
Abstract: Birds are among the most colorful of vertebrate species, and their retinas display a range of remarkable adaptations for color vision. The goal of my research is to understand the functions and diversity of avian coloration and color vision. Specifically, I have focused on the role of carotenoids as key mediators of both feather pigmentation and enhanced color vision. In this talk, I will present two examples from my recent studies that have revealed how birds utilize selective chemical transformation of carotenoids to optimize ultraviolet color vision, and how birds modify diet-derived carotenoids to produce brilliant red plumage coloration. Together these parallel investigations suggest that the diversification of avian coloration may have involved the cooption of biochemical mechanisms preexistent in the visual system.