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Title

Diet explains interpopulation variation of plasma carotenoids and skin pigmentation in nestling white storks

AuthorsNegro, Juan J. ; Tella, José Luis ; Blanco, Guillermo ; Forero, Manuela G. ; Garrido-Fernández, Juan
Issue Date2000
PublisherUniversity of Chicago Press
CitationPhysiological and Biochemical Zoology 73: 97- 101 (2000)
AbstractCarotenoids have a dietary origin in birds, but mechanisms by which they are absorbed in the gut, transported in the blood, metabolized at various sites, and deposited in the integument remain poorly understood. Variation in both plasma carotenoid levels and external color may reflect different access to dietary carotenoids or individual physiological differences in the uptake and deposition of carotenoids. We compared total plasma carotenoid concentration in nestling white storks (Ciconia ciconia) from 11 Spanish colonies in two consecutive years. The main food item in one of the colonies was the red swamp crayfish (Procambarus clarkii), a recently introduced species. Storks in the remaining colonies ate a variety of foods but no crayfish. Total plasma carotenoid levels in the colony where crayfish were consumed were about five times higher than in any other colony. These differences were maintained after controlling for the significant interyear variability, as well as for sex, age, and body mass of birds. Skin pigmentation also differed, being intensely orange in storks that consumed crayfish but white (unpigmented) in the remaining individuals. With thin-layer chromatography (TLC) and electronic absorption spectroscopy, astaxanthin was confirmed as the major carotenoid in crayfish as well as in the plasma, skin, and body fat of crayfish-eating storks, whereas lutein was the main carotenoid in plasma samples from the other colonies. These results indicate that a newly available carotenoid in the environment, astaxanthin, can be absorbed in large quantities from the gut and be transported in the blood before deposition in different tissues.
URIhttp://hdl.handle.net/10261/57729
DOI10.1086/316724
Identifiersdoi: 10.1086/316724
issn: 1522-2152
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