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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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Parasites in commercial bumblebees colonies

Parasites in commercial bumblebees colonies

The use of commercial bumblebees to aid crop pollination may result in overcrowding of agricultural landscapes by pollinators. Consequently, transmission of parasites between pollinators via shared flowers may be substantial. In SW Spain, the authors assessed the initial infection status of commercial Bombus terrestris colonies and then explored spatial and seasonal influences on changes in parasite prevalence across a landscape where bumblebee colonies are intensively used to pollinate berry crops. Colonies were placed inside strawberry greenhouse crops and in woodlands adjacent and distant to crops, in winter and in spring, as representative periods of high and low use of colonies, respectively. Worker bumblebees were collected from colonies upon arrival from a producer and 30 days after being placed in the field. The abdomen of each bumblebee was morphologically inspected for a range of internal parasites. Upon arrival, 71% of the colonies were infected by spores of Nosema. Three bumblebees from two colonies harboured Apicystis bombi spores at the end of their placement in woodlands adjacent to the crops. Nosema colony prevalence did not change significantly either among sites or between seasons. No evidence was found for the density of commercial B. terrestris impacting Nosema prevalence in those commercial colonies, but results highlight the potential risk for parasites to be transmitted from commercial bumblebees to native pollinators. informacion[at] Trillo et al (2019) Prevalence of Nosema microsporidians in commercial bumblebees (Bombus terrestris) is not related to the intensity of their use at the landscape scale. Apidologie