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Models for human porphyrias: Have animals in the wild been overlooked?

Humans accumulate porphyrins in the body mostly during the course of porphyrias, diseases caused by defects in the enzymes of the heme biosynthesis pathway and that produce acute attacks, skin lesions and liver cancer. In contrast, some wild mammals and birds are adapted to accumulate porphyrins without injurious consequences. This study proposes to view such physiological adaptations as potential solutions to human porphyrias, and suggest certain wild animals as models. Given the enzymatic activity and/or the patterns of porphyrin excretion and accumulation, the fox squirrel, the great bustard and the Eurasian eagle owl may constitute overlooked models for different porphyrias. The Harderian gland of rodents, where large amounts of porphyrins are synthesized, presents an underexplored potential for understanding the carcinogenic/toxic effect of porphyrin accumulation. Investigating how these animals avoid porphyrin pathogenicity may complement the use of laboratory models for porphyrias and provide new insights into the treatment of these disorders. informacion[at]ebd.csic.es: De Oliveira Neves & Galvan (2020) Models for human porphyrias: Have animals in the wild been overlooked? BioEssays. DOI 10.1002/bies.202000155


https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/bies.202000155
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“Planned obsolescence” in the plumage of larks

"Planned obsolescence" in the plumage of larks

Larks (Alaudidae) present a heavily worn plumage for the most part of the annual cycle, to the point that identification field guides typically depict lark species in both fresh and worn plumages. The ephemeral nature of lark feathers is even more strange knowing that larks are among the few passerines undergoing a single annual molt. Contrarily, a majority of songbirds moult feathers twice a year. Larks are dull-colored ground-dwelling birds living in open areas, thus occupying a niche where abrasion by air and soil particles is maximal. Authors observed that lark feathers have unmelanized fringes and are prone to breakage. Larks may have turned need into a virtue: they possibly cannot avoid a premature damage of their fragile plumage, and instead of incurring the cost of molting repeatedly, they gain the advantage of a form of crypsis known as disruptive camouflage. When feathers break, they create a serrated random pattern, cancelling out the effect of smooth lines more easily detected by predators. informacion[at]ebd.csic.es: Negro et al (2019) Adaptive plumage wear for increased crypsis in the plumage of Palearctic larks (Alaudidae). Ecology https://doi.org/10.1002/ecy.2771


https://esajournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/ecy.2771