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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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Reducing light-induced mortality of seabirds: High pressure sodium lights decrease the fatal attraction of shearwaters

Reducing light-induced mortality of seabirds: High pressure sodium lights decrease the fatal attraction of shearwaters

The use of artificial light at night and its ecological consequences are increasing around the world. Light pollution can lead to massive mortality episodes for nocturnally active petrels, one of the most threatened avian groups. Some fledglings can be attracted or disoriented by artificial light on their first flights. Studies testing the effect of artificial light characteristics on attractiveness to seabirds have not provided conclusive results and there is some urgency as some endangered petrel species experience high light-induced mortality. A field experiment to test the effect of three common outdoor lighting systems with different light spectra (high pressure sodium, metal halide and light emitting diode) on the number and the body condition of grounded fledglings of the short-tailed shearwater was designed. A total of 235 birds was grounded during 99 experimental hours (33 h for each treatment). 47% of birds was grounded when metal halide lights were on, while light emitting diode and high pressure sodium lights showed lower percentages of attraction (29% and 24%). No differences in body condition were detected among the birds grounded by the different lighting systems. The adoption of high pressure sodium lights (or with similar spectra) into petrel-friendly lighting designs together with other light mitigation measures such as light attenuation, lateral shielding to reduce spill and appropriate orientation are recommended. informacion[at] Rodríguez et al (2017) Reducing light-induced mortality of seabirds: High pressure sodium lights decrease the fatal attraction of shearwaters. J Nature Conservation Doi 10.1016/j.jnc.2017.07.001