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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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Sexual dichromatism and condition-dependence in the skin of a bat

Sexual dichromatism and condition-dependence in the skin of a bat

Bats are assumed not to use vision for communication, despite recent evidence of their capacity for color vision. The possibility that bats use color traits as signals has thus been overlooked. Some tent-roosting bats have a potential for visual signaling because they exhibit bright yellow skin, a trait that in birds often acts as a sexual signal. The authors searched for evidence of sexual dichromatism in the yellow bare skin of Honduran white bats Ectophylla alba, the first reported mammal with a capacity to deposit significant amounts of carotenoid pigments in the skin. Skin yellow chroma, a measure that reflects carotenoid content, increases in the ears and nose-leaf during development probably due to an increase in dietary carotenoid accumulation. Once in the adulthood, the yellow color of the nose-leaf becomes brighter in males, representing the first evidence of sexual dichromatism in a bat. The nose-leaf brightness tends to covary positively with the body condition of males. It was also found that the skin shows a reflectance peak at 530 nm that virtually coincides with the main reflectance peak (540 nm) of the back side of Heliconia leaves used as roosts. This suggests that these leaves were selected because of camouflage benefits, and the rich lighting conditions of these roosting places then favored the use of skin coloration as a sexual signal. These findings open a new perspective in the physiological and behavioral ecology of bats in which vision has a more relevant role than previously thought. informacion[at]ebd.csic.es: Rodríguez-Herrera et al (2019) Sexual dichromatism and condition-dependence in the skin of a bat. J Mammal https://doi.org/10.1093/jmammal/gyz035


https://academic.oup.com/jmammal/advance-article-abstract/doi/10.1093/jmammal/gyz035/5378721?redirectedFrom=fulltext