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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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Size increase without genetic divergence in the Eurasian water shrew Neomys fodiens

Size increase without genetic divergence in the Eurasian water shrew Neomys fodiens

When a population shows a marked morphological change, it is important to know whether that population is genetically distinct; if it is not, the novel trait could correspond to an adaptation that might be of great ecological interest. Here, a subspecies of water shrew, Neomys fodiens niethammeri, which is found in a narrow strip of the northern Iberian Peninsula was studied. This subspecies presents an abrupt increase in skull size when compared to the rest of the Eurasian population, which has led to the suggestion that it is actually a different species. Skulls obtained from owl pellets collected over the last 50 years allowed performing a morphometric analysis in addition to an extensive multilocus analysis based on short intron fragments successfully amplified from these degraded samples. Interestingly, no genetic divergence was detected using either mitochondrial or nuclear data. Additionally, an allele frequency analysis revealed no significant genetic differentiation. The absence of genetic divergence and differentiation revealed here indicate that the large form of N. fodiens does not correspond to a different species and instead represents an extreme case of size increase, of possible adaptive value, which deserves further investigation. informacion[at]ebd.csic.es: Balmori-de la Puente et al (2019) Size increase without genetic divergence in the Eurasian water shrew Neomys fodiens. Sci Rep doi:10.1038/s41598-019-53891-y


https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-019-53891-y