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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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Oceanographic drivers and mistiming processes shape breeding success in a seabird

Oceanographic drivers and mistiming processes shape breeding success in a seabird

Understanding the processes driving seabirds' reproductive performance through trophic interactions requires the identification of seasonal pulses in marine productivity. In this study, it was investigated the sequence of environmental and biological processes driving the reproductive phenology and performance of the storm petrel in the Western Mediterranean. The enhanced light and nutrient availability at the onset of water stratification (late winter/early spring) resulted in annual consecutive peaks in relative abundance of phytoplankton, zooplankton and ichthyoplankton. The high energy-demanding period of egg production and chick rearing coincided with these successive pulses in food availability, pointing to a phenological adjustment to such seasonal patterns with important fitness consequences. Indeed, delayed reproduction with respect to the onset of water stratification resulted in both hatching and breeding failure. This pattern was observed at the population level, but also when confounding factors such as individuals' age or experience were also accounted for. This study provides the first evidence of oceanographic drivers leading to the optimal time-window for reproduction in an inshore seabird at southern European latitudes, along with a suitable framework for assessing the impact of environmentally driven changes in marine productivity patterns in seabird performance. informacion[at]ebd.csic.es: Ramírez et al (2016) Oceanographic drivers and mistiming processes shape breeding success in a seabird. Proc R Soc B Doi: 10.1098/rspb.2015.2287 


http://rspb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/283/1826/20152287