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Title

Porphyrins and pheomelanins contribute to the reddish juvenal plumage of black-shouldered kites

AuthorsNegro, Juan J. CSIC ORCID; Bortolotti, Gary R.; Mateo, Rafael CSIC ORCID; García, Isabel M.
KeywordsPorphyrin
Coproporphyrins
Pigment
Bird coloration
Camouflage
Crypsis
Social signal
Issue Date5-Apr-2009
PublisherElsevier
CitationComparative Biochemistry and Physiology Part B: Biochemistry and Molecular Biology 153(3): 296-299 (2009)
AbstractPorphyrins are a widespread group of pigments in nature, but, contrary to melanins and carotenoids, their occurrence as plumage colorants seems to be anecdotal and their function, if any, is unknown. Using thin-layer chromatography and high pressure liquid chromatography, we have found coproporphyrin III, the same porphyrin type previously reported in owls, in the plumage of nestling black-shouldered kites (Elanus caeruleus). The first plumage grown at the nest in this species includes reddish-brown contour feathers in the upperparts, and particularly in the breast area, which fade during the weeks-long post-fledging period to become either gray or white consistent with the definitive adult plumage. In these reddish feathers, we have also found small amounts of pheomelanins and traces of eumelanin. The contribution of each pigment to the final colour perceived by birds or other animals is unknown. In white and grey feathers of the same species no porphyrin was found, and only traces of eumelanin were detected in the grey ones. The fact that the reddish feathers are only found in the juvenal plumage, when individuals are vulnerable in an open nest, leads us to hypothesize a camouflage role for this ephemeral plumage. As porphyrins are involved, although not exclusively, we can for the first time ascribe them a function in the plumage of birds.
Description4 pages, 1 figure, 1 table.-- PMID: 19351566 [PubMed].-- Printed version published Jul 2009.
Publisher version (URL)http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cbpb.2009.03.013
URIhttp://hdl.handle.net/10261/13346
DOI10.1016/j.cbpb.2009.03.013
ISSN1096-4959
Appears in Collections:(EBD) Artículos

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