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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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Unique evolution of vitamin A as an external pigment in tropical starlings

Unique evolution of vitamin A as an external pigment in tropical starlings

Pigments are largely responsible for the appearance of organisms. Most biological pigments derive from the metabolism of shikimic acid (melanins), mevalonic acid (carotenoids) or levulinic acid (porphyrins), which thus generate the observed diversity of external phenotypes. Starlings are generally dark birds despite iridescence in feathers, but 10 % of species have evolved plumage pigmentation comprising bright colors that are known to be produced only by carotenoids. However, using micro-Raman spectroscopy, it was discovered that the bright yellow plumage coloration of one of these species, the Afrotropical golden-breasted starling Cosmopsarus regius, is not produced by carotenoids, but by vitamin A (all-trans-retinol). This is the first organism reported to deposit significant amounts of vitamin A in its integument and use it as a body pigment. Phylogenetic reconstructions reveal that the retinol-based pigmentation of the golden-breasted starling has independently appeared in the starling family from dark ancestors. This study thus unveils a unique evolution of a new class of external pigments comprised by retinoids. información[at]ebd.csic.es: Galván et al (2019) Unique evolution of vitamin A as an external pigment in tropical starlings. J Exp Biol doi: 10.1242/jeb.205229


http://jeb.biologists.org/content/early/2019/05/16/jeb.205229