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Impairment of mixed melanin-based pigmentation in parrots

Parrots and allies (Order Psittaciformes) have evolved an exclusive capacity to synthesize polyene pigments called psittacofulvins at feather follicles, which allows them to produce a striking diversity of pigmentation phenotypes. Melanins are polymers constituting the most abundant pigments in animals, and the sulphurated form (pheomelanin) produces colors that are similar to those produced by psittacofulvins. However, the differential contribution of these pigments to psittaciform phenotypic diversity has not been investigated. Given the color redundancy, and physiological limitations associated to pheomelanin synthesis, this study assumed that the latter would be avoided by psittaciform birds. This hypothesis was tested by using Raman spectroscopy to identify pigments in feathers exhibiting colors suspicious of being produced by pheomelanin (i.e., dull red, yellow and grey- and green-brownish) in 26 species from the three main lineages of Psittaciformes. The non-sulphurated melanin form (eumelanin) were detected in black, grey and brown plumage patches, and psittacofulvins in red, yellow and green patches, but no evidence of pheomelanin was found. As natural melanins are assumed to be composed of eumelanin and pheomelanin in varying ratios, these results represent the first report of impairment of mixed melanin-based pigmentation in animals. Given that psittaciforms also avoid the uptake of circulating carotenoid pigments, these birds seem to have evolved a capacity to avoid functional redundancy between pigments, likely by regulating follicular gene expression. The study provides the first vibrational characterization of different psittacofulvin-based colors and thus helps to determine the relative polyene chain length in these pigments, which is related to their antireductant protection activity. informacion[at]ebd.csic.es: Neves et al (2020) Impairment of mixed melanin-based pigmentation in parrots. J Experim Biol. DOI 10.1242/jeb.225912


https://jeb.biologists.org/content/early/2020/05/08/jeb.225912
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Feeding habits and trophic position of three marine predators in the Mediterranean Sea

Feeding habits and trophic position of three marine predators in the Mediterranean Sea

Understanding how marine predators interact is a scientific challenge. In marine ecosystems, segregation in feeding habits has been largely described as a common mechanism to allow the coexistence of several competing marine predators. However, little is known about the feeding ecology of most species of chondrichthyans, which play a pivotal role in the structure of marine food webs worldwide. In this study, the trophic ecology of 3 relatively abundant chondrichthyans coexisting in the Mediterranean Sea is examined: the blackmouth catshark Galeus melastomus, the velvet belly lanternshark Etmopterus spinax and the rabbit fish Chimaera monstrosa. To examine their trophic ecology and interspecific differences in food habits, the analysis of stomach content and stable isotopes was combined. Results highlighted a trophic segregation between C. monstrosa and the other 2 species. G. melastomus showed a diet composed mainly of cephalopods, while E. spinax preyed mainly on shrimps and C. monstrosa on crabs. Interspecific differences in the trophic niche were likely due to different feeding capabilities and body size. Each species showed different isotopic niche space and trophic level. Specifically, C. monstrosa showed a higher trophic level than E. spinax and G. melastomus. The high trophic levels of the 3 species highlighted their important role as predators in the marine food web. Results illustrate the utility of using complementary approaches that provide information about the feeding behaviour at short (stomach content) and long-term scales (stable isotopes), which could allow more efficient monitoring of marine food-web changes in the study area.informacion[at]ebd.csic.es  Albo-Puigserver et al (21015) Feeding ecology and trophic position of three sympatric demersal chondrichthyans in the northwestern Mediterranean Mar Ecol Prog Ser 524: 255–268 doi: 10.3354/meps11188