Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Birds: Feather Color Is More Than Skin Deep

Date:
April 15, 2009
Source:
Springer Science+Business Media
Summary:
Where do birds get their red feathers from? According to a new article, the red carotenoids that give the common crossbill its red coloration are produced in the liver, not the skin, as previously thought. Their findings have implications for understanding the evolution of color signaling in bird species.

New research shows that the red carotenoids that give the common crossbill (Loxia curvirostra) its red coloration are produced in the liver, not the skin, as previously thought.

Where do birds get their red feathers from? According to Esther del Val, from the National History Museum in Barcelona, Spain, and her team, the red carotenoids that give the common crossbill (Loxia curvirostra) its red coloration are produced in the liver, not the skin, as previously thought.

Their findings, published online in Springer's journal Naturwissenschaften, have implications for understanding the evolution of color signaling in bird species.

Carotenoids have important physiological functions, including antioxidant, immunomodulating, and photoprotectant properties. Carotenoid pigments are also used by many bird species as colorants, and are responsible for most of their red, orange and yellow coloration. In particular, carotenoid-red coloration in birds has been shown to act as an ornament, signaling the nutritional and health status of the individual and its ability to locate high quality resources. Recent studies have suggested that the transformation of carotenoid pigments takes place directly in the follicles during feather growth.

Del Val and her team show for the first time that, contrary to previous assumptions, the liver acts as the main site for the synthesis of carotenoids responsible for the birds' coloration, not the skin.

The researchers examined the carotenoid content of the liver, blood, skin and feathers of seven common crossbills (finches) in which adult males display carotenoid-based coloration on the throat, breast and rump. They were particularly interested in the anatomical origin of the birds' red plumage. They found the primary red feather pigment of male crossbills in the birds' liver and blood, implying that the carotenoids are synthesized in the liver and then travel to the peripheral tissues via the bloodstream.

Del Val concludes: "This surprising divergence with previous studies raises the question whether there are inter-specific differences in anatomical sites for conversion of carotenoids. Understanding inter-specific variation in mechanisms of color production may be the key to comprehend the different evolutionary pathways involved in color signaling."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Springer Science+Business Media. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Val et al. The liver but not the skin is the site for conversion of a red carotenoid in a passerine bird. Naturwissenschaften, 2009; DOI: 10.1007/s00114-009-0534-9

Cite This Page:

Springer Science+Business Media. "Birds: Feather Color Is More Than Skin Deep." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 15 April 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/04/090415074854.htm>.
Springer Science+Business Media. (2009, April 15). Birds: Feather Color Is More Than Skin Deep. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 28, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/04/090415074854.htm
Springer Science+Business Media. "Birds: Feather Color Is More Than Skin Deep." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/04/090415074854.htm (accessed July 28, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Monday, July 28, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge from Nest

Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge from Nest

AP (July 27, 2014) — A live-streaming webcam catches loggerhead sea turtle hatchlings emerging from a nest in the Florida Keys. (July 27) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Trees Could Save More Than 850 Lives Each Year

Trees Could Save More Than 850 Lives Each Year

Newsy (July 27, 2014) — A national study conducted by the USDA Forest Service found that trees collectively save more than 850 lives on an annual basis. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
What's To Blame For Worst Ebola Outbreak In History?

What's To Blame For Worst Ebola Outbreak In History?

Newsy (July 27, 2014) — A U.S. doctor has tested positive for the deadly Ebola virus, as the worst-ever outbreak continues to grow. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
The New York Times Backs Pot Legalization

The New York Times Backs Pot Legalization

Newsy (July 27, 2014) — The New York Times has officially endorsed the legalization of marijuana, but why now, and to what end? Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins