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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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Light pollution and seabird fledglings

Light pollution and seabird fledglings

One of the most critical phases in the life of petrels is at fledging when young birds pass from parental dependence on land to an independent life at sea. To mitigate mortality at this time, rescue programs are implemented near breeding sites around the world, especially for birds grounded by artificial lights. This study evaluated the plumage and body condition of short-tailed shearwater (Ardenna tenuirostris) fledglings captured at colonies just before departure in comparison to fledglings washed up on beaches and to fledglings attracted by artificial light along roads. Beach-washed birds were underweight and in poor condition, suggesting their future survival probabilities at sea were low. Birds rescued on roads as a consequence of light attraction had lower body weights and condition indices than fledglings captured at the colony. However, more than 50% of light-attracted birds had attained similar weights to those of adults, suggesting they have higher probabilities of survival than beach-washed birds. Water-logged birds being washed onto beaches is a natural process, but birds grounded by lighting along roads is an increasing anthropogenic threat that requires management. Thus, management and conservation efforts should be directed to protect birds in the colonies and reduce light-induced mortality, ideally through the strategic reduction of light sources and lateral light spillage. información: [at] Rodriguez et al (2017) Light pollution and seabird fledglings: Targeting efforts in rescue programs. J Wild Manage doi:10.1002/jwmg.21237