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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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Solar and terrestrial radiations explain continental-scale variation in bird pigmentation

Solar and terrestrial radiations explain continental-scale variation in bird pigmentation

Animals living on the earth's surface are protected from the damaging effects of solar ultraviolet (UV) radiation by melanin pigments that color their integument. UV levels that reach the earth's surface vary spatially, but the role of UV exposure in shaping clinal variations in animal pigmentation has never been tested. Here it is shown at a continental scale in Europe that golden eagles Aquila chrysaetos reared in territories with a high solar UV-B radiation exposure deposit lower amounts of the sulphurated form of melanin (pheomelanin) in feathers and consequently develop darker plumage phenotypes than eagles from territories with lower radiation exposure. This clinal variation in pigmentation is also explained by terrestrial gamma radiation levels in the rearing territories by a similar effect on the pheomelanin content of feathers, unveiling natural radioactivity as a previously unsuspected factor shaping animal pigmentation. These findings show for the first time the potential of solar and terrestrial radiations to explain pigmentation phenotype diversity in animals, including humans, at large spatial scales. informacion[at]ebd.csic.es: Galván et al (2018) Solar and terrestrial radiations explain continental-scale variation in bird pigmentation. Oecologia Doi 10.1007/s00442-018-4238-8


https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00442-018-4238-8