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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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Feather content of porphyrins in Eurasian eagle owl fledglings depends on body condition and breeding site quality

Feather content of porphyrins in Eurasian eagle owl fledglings depends on body condition and breeding site quality

Porphyrins are pigments produced in most animal cells during the synthesis of heme, but their importance for external coloration is unclear. Owls are among the few animals that accumulate porphyrins in the integument, where it could serve as a means of signaling. Here authors hypothesized that the porphyrin content of feathers may depend on body condition and breeding site quality in Eurasian eagle owl fledglings and thus constitute amplifiers of the quality of the area where they are born. Using high-performance liquid chromatography, two porphyrins (protoporphyrin IX and coproporphyrin III) were found in the body feathers of 19 eagle owl fledglings from seven breeding territories. Coproporphyrin III, but not protoporphyrin IX feather concentration, was positively associated with the body mass of fledglings and with the quality of the breeding sites where they were reared with respect to food quality and availability. As coproporphyrin III is produced under oxidative stress, good breeding sites may lead to fledglings in good condition. This in turn may make fledglings induce certain level of free radical and coproporphyrin III production to signal to conspecifics their site-mediated capacity to cope with oxidative stress. This is the first time that porphyrin content in the integument has been found to be related to individual quality, opening a new scenario for studying the evolution of animal coloration. informacion[at]ebd.csic.es Galván et al (2018) Feather content of porphyrins in Eurasian eagle owl (Bubo bubo) fledglings depends on body condition and breeding site quality. Integr Zool doi:10.1111/1749-4877.12313


http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/1749-4877.12313/full