Wednesday, January 11, 2012

A bizarre bilateral gynandromorph

My posts on aberrant plumages of Northern Cardinals, HERE, HERE, and HERE, brought a lot of interesting feedback and put me on to other strange cardinals. But the one that follows may take the cake in sheer weirdness. Someone tipped me to Larry Ammann's website, which is full of beautiful imagery. Check it out HERE. Amongst Larry's treasure trove of photos was a beast the likes of which few people have ever seen. Read on...

 Photo: Larry Ammann ©

Welcome to the wacky world of bilateral gynandromorphism. This feathered oddity appeared at Larry's feeders at his Texas abode about a year ago. I can only imagine his surprise upon sighting this Northern Cardinal. Gynandromorphy is a genetic aberration that causes an organism to have both male (andro) and female (gyn) parts. Occasionally gynandromorphic animals turn up that appear to be cleaved into separate sexes right down the middle, hence the bilateral modifier.

 Photo: Larry Ammann ©

He/she turns her/his best side to the camera. I have seen photos of bilaterally gynandromorphic butterflies before, and they can be spectacular. One wing is that of  male; the other wing is of a female. But apparently this condition is very rare in the bird world. While Larry's cardinal isn't unerringly and exactly split down the middle, plumagewise, it's close. In the photo above, we're looking at the female side of things, obviously.

 Photo: Larry Ammann ©

So, what causes gynandromorphy? It's somewhat complicated and certainly not my field of expertise, so if you want to plumb the depths of gynandromorphism and its causes, GO HERE. That site also has some cool photos of gynandromorphic butterflies.

Photo: Larry Ammann ©

The only finishing touch that could have made this bird look any cooler would have been if its crest was also bicolored. But any way you shake it, this is one strange and stunning cardinal.

Thanks to Larry Ammann for sharing his images with us.


Julie Zickefoose said...

Um, isn't that cardinal a twofer? The "female" side looks leucistic to me! Are my eyes fooling me, or is the she half white?

Loving your bizarro cardinal series. Keep 'em coming!

Vincent Lucas said...

Awesome bird Jim! Like you, I have seen gynandromorphic Leps but never birds. In fact, I remember when Irving Finkelstein collected that cool looking Diana Fritillary pictured in the article on gynandromorphism you cited. It must be a rare genetic "mistake" in nature for sure.

flux biota. said...

that is incredible. loving these cardinal posts.

Jason Kessler said...

What's next, Jim? Half Cardinal, half Painted Bunting?

Or a Cardinal body with the head of a Barn Owl?

Maybe a Mercardinal.

And I'm with Julie on this one. In the more brightly lit of the photos, the she/it/they half looks quite white.

Anonymous said...

Jim - That's not a bilateral gynandromorph. The line is not exactly bilateral, but more importantly the female side is not the right color. I think that this is a male with partial leucism.

Andy Jones said...

Whoops. A = Andy Jones.

Jim McCormac said...

Hi Andy, thanks for your thoughts. Julie Zickefoose was also thinking along the same lines. If it is an oddball leucistic individual, its quite unlike any of the specimens that I've seen over the years. I wonder if it can be determined as to exactly what is going on with this bird without benefit of having it in hand?

Jim McCormac said...

Andy and Julie: the more I look at this bird, the more I buy what you're selling.

HernĂ¡n Tolosa said...

An awsome bird, no doubt. But for me seems to be more a leucistic bird than a gynandromorphic one, but I'm not an expert to stay sure.