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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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Pathogen transmission risk by gulls moving across human landscapes

Pathogen transmission risk by gulls moving across human landscapes

Wildlife that exploit human-made habitats hosts and spreads bacterial pathogens. This shapes the epidemiology of infectious diseases and facilitates pathogen spill-over between wildlife and humans. This is a global problem, yet little is known about the dissemination potential of pathogen-infected animals. How this knowledge gap could be filled at regional scales is shown by combining molecular pathogen diagnosis with GPS tracking of pathogen-infected gulls. Specifically, pathogen risk maps of Salmonella, Campylobacter and Chlamydia were generated, based on the spatial movements of pathogen-infected yellow-legged gulls (Larus michahellis) equipped with GPS recorders. Also, crossing this spatial information with habitat information, critical habitats were identified for the potential transmission of these bacteria in southern Europe. The use of human-made habitats by infected-gulls could potentially increase the potential risk of direct and indirect bidirectional transmission of pathogens between humans and wildlife. These findings show that pathogen-infected wildlife equipped with GPS recorders can provide accurate information on the spatial spread risk for zoonotic bacteria. Integration of GPS-tracking with classical epidemiological approaches may help to improve zoonosis surveillance and control programs informacion[at] Navarro et al (2019) Pathogen transmission risk by opportunistic gulls moving across human landscapes. Scientific Reports 9:10659 DOI 10.1038/s41598-019-46326-1