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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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Less abundant animal and plant species gather in ghettos in order to survive

Less abundant animal and plant species gather in ghettos in order to survive

According to the competitive exclusion principle, species with low competitive abilities should be excluded by more efficient competitors; yet, they generally remain as rare species. The positive and negative spatial association networks of 326 disparate assemblages was described showing a general organization pattern that simultaneously supports the primacy of competition and the persistence of rare species. Abundant species monopolize negative associations in about 90% of the assemblages. On the other hand, rare species are mostly involved in positive associations, forming small network modules. Simulations suggest that positive interactions among rare species and microhabitat preferences are the most probable mechanisms underpinning this pattern and rare species persistence. The consistent results across taxa and geography suggest a general explanation for the maintenance of biodiversity in competitive environments. información[at]ebd.csic.es: Calatayud et al (2019) Positive associations among rare species and their persistence in ecological assemblages. Nature Ecol Evol. DOI 10.1038/s41559-019-1053-5.


https://www.nature.com/articles/s41559-019-1053-5