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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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Predictors of pollinator service

Predictors of pollinator service

Pollinator service is essential for successful sexual reproduction and long-term population persistence of animal-pollinated plants, and innumerable studies have shown that insufficient service by pollinators results in impaired sexual reproduction ("pollen limitation"). Studies directly addressing the predictors of variation in pollinator service across species or habitats remain comparatively scarce, which limits our understanding of the primary causes of natural variation in pollen limitation. This paper evaluates the importance of pollination-related features, evolutionary history and environment as predictors of pollinator service in a large sample of plant species from undisturbed montane habitats in southeastern Spain. Quantitative data on pollinator visitation were obtained for 191 insect-pollinated species belonging to 142 genera in 43 families, and the predictive values of simple floral traits (perianth type, class of pollinator visitation unit, and visitation unit dry mass), phylogeny, and habitat type were assessed. A total of 24,866 pollinator censuses accounting for 5,414,856 flower-min of observation were conducted on 510 different dates. Flowering patch and single flower visitation probabilities by all pollinators combined were significantly predicted by the combined effects of perianth type (open vs. restricted), class of visitation unit (single flower vs. flower packet), mass of visitation unit, phylogenetic relationships, and habitat type. Pollinator composition at insect order level varied extensively among plant species, largely reflecting the contrasting visitation responses of Coleoptera (beetles), Diptera (flies), Hymenoptera (bees) and Lepidoptera (butterflies) to variation in floral traits. For example, Lepidoptera responded positively to increasing mass of visitation unit in species with flowers packets, but negatively in species with single flowers and restrictive perianths. Pollinator composition had a strong phylogenetic component, and the distribution of phylogenetic autocorrelation hotspots of visitation rates across the plant phylogeny differed widely among insect orders. Habitat type was a key predictor of pollinator composition, as major insect orders exhibited decoupled variation across habitat types in visitation rates. Comprehensive pollinator sampling of a regional plant community has shown that pollinator visitation and composition can be parsimoniously predicted by a combination of simple floral features, habitat type and evolutionary history. Ambitious community-level studies can help to formulate novel hypotheses and questions, shed fresh light on long-standing controversies in pollination research (e.g., "pollination syndromes"), and identify methodological cautions that should be considered in pollination community studies dealing with small, phylogenetically-biased plant species samples. informacion[at]ebd.csic.es: Herrera (2019) Flower traits, habitat, and phylogeny as predictors of pollinator service: a plant community perspective. Ecol Monographs DOI 10.1002/ecm.1402


https://esajournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ecm.1402