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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] Neves et al (2020) Impairment of mixed melanin-based pigmentation in parrots. J Experim Biol. DOI 10.1242/jeb.225912
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Lifelong effects of trapping experience

Lifelong effects of trapping experience

Long-term monitoring of individually marked animals is usually required for reliable estimation of numerous life history parameters. However, capture, marking and manipulation can dramatically alter the animals' behaviour after capture, and thus affect subsequent recapture success. Here, a pied flycatcher population was used as an example to illustrate the sampling bias resulting from the repeated capture of free-ranging individuals. By using repeated measures of the same individuals obtained during our long-term survey, the interannual response of breeding adults to capture-related stress was specifically evaluated, measured as latency to enter nestboxes equipped with a swing-trap. Moreover, the changes in the mean and variance of bird age with varying trapping effort were examined using subsamples of the data set. Birds without any previous trapping experience entered nests more quickly than experienced ones, after controlling for other factors affecting latency, such as the sex, offspring quality and the order of capture relative to the other pair member. Birds' reluctance to enter the nest furthermore increased as the number of captures in previous years accumulated, implying that individual pied flycatchers became progressively more difficult to capture over the course of the study. These results indicate that repeated exposure to capture stress over an animal's lifetime may induce long-lasting behavioural modifications that may influence trappability of the older segments of the population. This may ultimately lead to sampling bias towards younger ages, especially when effort is limited. The study concludes that systematic age bias due to trapping experience can have important implications for the estimation of variation in a range of traits and should therefore be carefully checked in longitudinal studies. informacion[at] Camacho et al (2017) Lifelong effects of trapping experience lead to age-biased sampling: lessons from a wild bird population.