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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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From groups to communities in western lowland gorillas

From groups to communities in western lowland gorillas

Social networks are the result of interactions between individuals at different temporal scales. Thus, sporadic intergroup encounters and individual forays play a central role in defining the dynamics of populations in social species. The rate of intergroup encounters was assessed for three western lowland gorilla Gorilla gorilla gorilla groups with daily observations over 5 years, and non-invasively genotyped a larger population over four months. Both approaches revealed a social system much more dynamic than anticipated, with non-aggressive intergroup encounters that involved social play by immature individuals, exchanges of members between groups likely modulated by kinship, and absence of infanticide evidenced by infants not fathered by the silverback of the group where they were found. This resulted in a community composed of groups that interacted frequently and not-aggressively, contrasting with the more fragmented and aggressive mountain gorilla G. beringei beringei societies. Such extended sociality can promote the sharing of behavioural and cultural traits, but might also increase the susceptibility of western lowland gorillas to infectious diseases that have decimated their populations in recent times. informacion[at]ebd.csic.es: Forcina et al (2019) From groups to communities in western lowland gorillas. P Roy Soc B-Biol Sci https://doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2018.2019


https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/10.1098/rspb.2018.2019