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Argentine ants harm nestlings of the blue tit

The consequences of ant invasions on ecosystems may only become apparent after long periods. In addition, predicting how sensitive native fauna will respond is only possible if the underlying proximate mechanisms of their impact are identified. The attraction of the native and invasive ant community to artificial bird nests was studied, together with reproduction of a wild native songbird over five consecutive breeding seasons in relation to the presence of an invasive ant species. Biometric, reproductive and individual blood parameters of great tits Parus major breeding in invaded as compared to uninvaded sites by Argentine ants Linepithema humile were analysed. Great tits bred preferably in uninvaded territories by the Argentine ant. Moreover, Argentine ants were more abundant at nests in invaded sites, than any native ant species were at uninvaded sites. Further, Argentine ants recruited at the artificial nests more intensively and responded to a larger variety of nest (intact eggs, cracked eggs, faeces, and cracked eggs plus faeces) contents than native species. Although breeding success and adult condition did not vary in relation to invasion status, offspring quality was negatively affected by the presence of Argentine ants. Nestlings reared in invaded sites were lighter, with lower wing/tarsus length ratio and had a reduced nutritional condition and altered oxidative stress balance as measured from several blood parameters. The interspersed distribution and small distance between invaded versus uninvaded territories suggest that ant presence affects nestling condition through direct interference at the nest. These results highlight the importance of evaluating the proximate effects like physiological parameters of the native fauna, when studying invasive ant-native bird interactions. informacion[at]ebd.csic.es: Álvarez et al (2020) Breeding consequences for a songbird nesting in Argentine ant' invaded land. Biol Invasions https://doi.org/10.1007/s10530-020-02297-3


https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10530-020-02297-3
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Changes in melanocyte RNA and DNA methylation favor pheomelanin synthesis and may avoid systemic oxidative stress after dietary cysteine supplementation in birds

Changes in melanocyte RNA and DNA methylation favor pheomelanin synthesis and may avoid systemic oxidative stress after dietary cysteine supplementation in birds

Cysteine plays essential biological roles, but excessive amounts produce cellular oxidative stress. Cysteine metabolism is mainly mediated by the enzymes cysteine dioxygenase and ?-glutamylcysteine synthetase, respectively coded by the genes CDO1 and GCLC. Here a new hypothesis is tested posing that the synthesis of the pigment pheomelanin also contributes to cysteine homeostasis in melanocytes, where cysteine can enter the pheomelanogenesis pathway. An experiment was conducted in the Eurasian nuthatch Sitta europaea, a bird producing large amounts of pheomelanin for feather pigmentation, to investigate if melanocytes show epigenetic lability under exposure to excess cysteine. Systemic cysteine levels were increased in nuthatches by supplementing them with dietary cysteine during growth. This caused in feather melanocytes the downregulation of genes involved in intracellular cysteine metabolism (GCLC), cysteine transport to the cytosol from the extracellular medium (Slc7a11) and from melanosomes (CTNS), and regulation of tyrosinase activity (MC1R and ASIP). These changes were mediated by increases in DNA m5C in all genes excepting Slc7a11, which experienced RNA m6A depletion. Birds supplemented with cysteine synthesized more pheomelanin than controls, but did not suffer higher systemic oxidative stress. These results suggest that excess cysteine activates an epigenetic mechanism that favors pheomelanin synthesis and may protect from oxidative stress. informacion[at]ebd.csic.es: Rodríguez-Martínez et al (2019) Changes in melanocyte RNA and DNA methylation favor pheomelanin synthesis and may avoid systemic oxidative stress after dietary cysteine supplementation in birds


https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/mec.15024