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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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The invasive red swamp crayfish increases infection of the amphibian chytrid fungus

The invasive red swamp crayfish increases infection of the amphibian chytrid fungus

Emerging infectious diseases are increasingly recognized as a severe threat to wildlife. Chytridiomycosis, caused by Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd), is considered one of the most important causes for the decline of amphibian populations worldwide. Identifying potential biological reservoirs and characterizing the role they can play in pathogen maintenance is not only important from a scientific point of view, but also relevant from an applied perspective (e.g. disease control strategies), especially when worldwide distributed invasive species are involved. This study aimed (1) to analyse the prevalence and infection intensity of Bd in the invasive red swamp crayfish (Procambarus clarkii) across the western Andalusian region in Spain; and (2) to assess whether the presence of crayfish affects the prevalence and infection intensity of Bd in amphibians of Doñana Natural Space (DNS), a localized highly protected area within the Andalusian region. First, infection prevalence in crayfish guts was 1.5% regionally (four out of 267 crayfish were qPCR positive to Bd, all of them belonging to the same Andalusian population); qPCR positives were histologically confirmed by finding zoosporangia of Bd in gastrointestinal walls of the red swamp crayfish. Second, a higher prevalence of Bd infection was found in DNS (19% for crayfish and 28% for amphibians on average), a place with great diversity and abundance of amphibians. Analyses showed that prevalence of Bd in amphibians was related to the presence of the red swamp crayfish, indicating that this crayfish could be a suitable predictor of Bd infection in co-occurring amphibians. These results suggest that the red swamp crayfish might be a possible reservoir for Bd, representing an additional indirect impact on amphibians, a role that had not been previously recognised in its invasive range. informacion[at] Oficialdegui et al (2019) The invasive red swamp crayfish (Procambarus clarkii) increases infection of the amphibian chytrid fungus (Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis). Biol Invasions DOI: 10.1007/s10530-019-02041-6