Crimson Rosella Parrots are Not Ring Species

Crimson Rosella

Source: Austrailian Broadcasting Corporation

The Ring Species Concept was first suggested in 1905 and then later formalized in the 1940’s. It suggested that the evolutionary process of speciation could be seen across geographic space by showing that genetic variations of the same species could not interbreed. It was suggested that the Crimson Rosella Parrot surrounding the semi-arid regions of Australia might qualify as a Ring Species. With further study, it was found that interbreeding occurs within all forms and that DNA analysis shows no relationship between geographic location and color which should be found in a Ring Species. Therefore the Crimson Rosella Parrot does not qualify as a Ring Species.

Crimson Rosella Parrots

The Crimson Rosella Parrots, taxonomically known as Platycercus elegans, live in Australia. The various populations / sub-species of the parrot were thought to form a circle around the semi-arid regions with the two ends of the circle meeting near the headwaters of the Murray and Murrumbidgee Rives. One variation contains crimson and blue plumage. A second variation replaces some red with bright yellow and is known as the Yellow Rosella. A third variation has a fiery yellow-orange in place of some red coloring on the cheeks and back and is known as the Orange Rosella.

Crimson Rosella Ring Species

Source: Forshaw and Cooper 2002

Expected Appearance of Ring Species

By definition, there are several basic characteristics that must be matched by a plant or animal to qualify as a Ring Species. The three most prominent characteristics are: 1) a series of connected populations encircling a geographic barrier, 2) continuous gene flow along both branches of the ring, and 3) the end populations must be sufficiently different to prohibit interbreeding where they come together.

Actual Appearance of Platycercus elegans

Both mitochondrial and nuclear DNA studies show that the geographic positions of these birds is complex. The areas of similarity and dissimilarity do not match what is expected of Ring Species. In fact, there was no conclusive relationship between DNA, plumage color, and geographic location. Furthermore, it was also noted that interbreeding occurs within all forms.


The Crimson Rosella Parrot does not meet either of the two main requirements to be considered a Ring Species.

Other Ring Species Articles

  • 1) The Ensatina Salamanders surrounding the Central Valley of California
  • 2) The Larus Gulls near the Arctic Circle
  • 3) The Greenish Warbler surrounding the Tibeten Plateau
  • 4) The Crimson Rosella Parrot in Australia
  • 5) The Caribbean Slipper Spurge in Central America.
  • For Further Information:

  • 1) Joseph, L., Dolman, G., Donnellan, S., Saint, K., Berg, M, and Bennett, A. (2008). Where and when does a ring start and end? Testing the ring-species hypothesis in a species complex of Australian parrots. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 2008 275, doi: 10.1098/rspb.2008.0765
  • 2) Irwin, D., Irwin, J., and Price, T. (2001) Ring Species as bridges between microevolution and Speciation. Genetica 112-113: 223-243, 2001.
  • XXXIIF. Last Updated: 08/01/2016
    Todd Elder

    Todd Elder

    Todd Elder has a deep desire to understand and experience Creation. As a Baraminologist, his current research includes developing the Katagenos Species Concept, the Natanzera Classification System, and the Floral Formula Method of determining Plant Kinds. As an author and speaker, his books and seminar materials are designed to encourage a growing relationship with the Creator.
    Todd Elder

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