FAQ: Where are we with regards to the opaline mutation in Agapornis eye-ring species?
FAQ: A number of years ago the first opaline Agapornis fischeri appeared on the scene. This sex-linked mutation probably originated in China. In competitions the BVA Masters provides room for the opaline Agapornis fischeri, but not for opaline in the other eye-ring species. This is in spite of the fact that many breeders are working hard to introduce the opaline mutation into other eye-ring species (Agapornis personatus, Agapornis lilianae, Agapornis nigrigenis). Why is it that there is no room (yet) for these at competitions?
Answer: It’s very simple. Developing a good transmutation transmutation (genetic introgression) takes on average 5 F and 5 R generations, which comes to about 10 years. In the case of mutations on the Z chromosome, including opaline, it can take even longer.
Considering the complexity of transmutations as well as the fact that opaline rearranges pigmentation, it is difficult to anticipate what a purebred opaline Agapornis nigrigenis or Agapornus personatus might look like (this is easier to predict for mutations that do not rearrange pigmentation). It is, in other words, much more complicated than one might think. Will the opaline Agapornis personatus have a black chest and yellow head? We don’t have the answer yet. We can however be fairly certain that it will not have a red mask and back of the head like we see in Agapornis fischeri, because in Agapornis personatus black eumelanin rather than red psittacine is predominant in these areas. And what changes will opaline bring about in Agapornis nigrigenis? Who is to say what will happen to the salmon triangular bib on the upper chest that this species exhibits, and what about the eumelanin in the feathers on the head and cheeks? The only species for which perhaps we might hazard a guess is Agapornis lilianae, but even that remains uncertain.
Of course we have all seen photos circulate on the internet of the first F and R-generations, but what we see here is that cocks as well as hens display hybrid characteristics of both species (characteristics located on the autosomal chromosomes), and only the hen will phenotypically exhibit the opaline characteristics of the Z chromosome from Agapornis fischeri. If we had to judge this intermediate form we would not be able to do so with the required knowledge and we would make mistakes. We would also run the risk of coming to view these intermediate forms as “real”. If hobbyists then do not further purify these intermediate birds through breeding in the wild type and instead breed these hybrids we will continue to create intermediate forms. If past experience teaches us anything, it is that such birds pollute entire collections and are very difficult to get rid of (just think of the * sable fischeri * etc.). We should avoid this kind of amateurism at any cost.
In the past when transmutations were developed, the few people who specialized in this did so over long periods of time and respected the wild type. Unfortunately, what appears to be happening these days is that everyone thinks they can develop transmutations but instead they reveal their ignorance about this matter. This results in the market being flooded with hybrids. That these hybrids endanger the continued existence of the various species goes without saying. This is grist on the mill of those who oppose transmutations, and how could we disagree with them? We must avoid this kind of messing around.
We neither can nor want to prevent anybody from developing transmutations, but the least we should expect from these breeders is that they embark on this journey in a professional manner and with respect for the wild type. As mentioned, this is a process that takes many years. Through not allowing room in BVA Masters competitions for the opaline mutation in the other eye-ring species we give serious breeders the chance to develop their transmutations correctly. This way we avoid that after two generations they feel compelled to offer their transitional forms for sale just because others are doing it too.
In other words, when the time is right, and this will take a few more years, we will consider legitimizing the opaline mutation in the other eye-ring species in the genus Agapornis, but certainly not now. This we owe to the serious breeders, who fortunately do exist in our hobby. Our great-great grandchildren will be grateful for our diligence.