Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Red hair is a sign of oxidative stress in wild boars, but gray is A-OK

Date:
July 19, 2012
Source:
University of Chicago Press Journals
Summary:
A coat of a certain color could be costly for wild boars, according to new research. The research found that boars with more reddish hair tend to have higher levels of oxidative stress -- damage that occurs as toxins from cell respiration build up. The reason for this, the researchers suggest, is that the process of producing reddish pigment eats up a valuable antioxidant that would otherwise be fighting the free radicals that lead to oxidative stress.

A coat of a certain color could be costly for wild boars, according to research published in the journal Physiological and Biochemical Zoology.

The research, led by Ismael Galván of Spain's Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales, found that boars with more reddish hair tend to have higher levels of oxidative stress -- damage that occurs as toxins from cell respiration build up. The reason for this, the researchers suggest, is that the process of producing reddish pigment eats up a valuable antioxidant that would otherwise be fighting the free radicals that lead to oxidative stress.

Most of the pigment in animal skin and hair is produced by chemicals called melanins. There are two kinds of melanins: eumelanin, which produces dark colors, and pheomelanin, which produces reddish or chestnut colors. The two melanins are produced via similar chemical pathways, with an exception. The production of pheomelanin consumes a chemical called glutathione (also known as GSH), which is a powerful intracellular antioxidant.

To see if this consumption of GSH has physiological consequences, Galván and his team studied a population of wild boars in Dońana National Park in southwestern Spain. The researchers quantified the amount of reddish fur each boar had, and tested levels of GSH and oxidative stress in the muscles of each animal.

They found that the boars with the highest levels of pheomelanin in their hair tended to have lower levels of GSH in their muscles, and had the highest levels of oxidative stress. "This suggests that certain colorations may have important consequences for wild boars," Galván said. "Pheomelanin responsible for chestnut colorations may make animals more susceptible to oxidative damage."

The results corroborate findings in other studies on birds and other animals suggesting the production of pheomelanin imposes physiological constraints. In humans, red hair and high pheomelanin in skin has been linked to higher rates of cancer. These findings raise a question: Why did pheomelanin evolve in the first place?

Galván suggests one possible answer. While consuming GSH, pheomelanin production also consumes a chemical called cysteine, which is part of GSH and can be toxic in excess. "Pheomelanin may have evolved because cysteine, which is toxic at very high levels, is removed from cells during pheomelanin production," Galván said.

Surprising Results for Grays

While the findings for red hair echoed results of other studies, there were some surprising results for gray hair in wild boars. Studies in humans have suggested that graying hair -- the absence of melanin -- may happen as a result of oxidative stress. "As with human hair, wild boars show hair graying all across their body fur," Galván said. "But we found that boars showing hair graying were actually those in prime condition and with the lowest levels of oxidative damage. Far from being a sign of age-related decline, hair graying seems to indicate good condition in wild boars."

Research into the consequences of different levels of melanin is only just beginning, Galván says, and he hopes this research will spur continued study.

"Given that all higher vertebrates, including humans, share the same types of melanins in skin, hair, and plumage, these results increase our scant current knowledge on the physiological consequences of pigmentation," he said.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Chicago Press Journals. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Ismael Galván, Carlos Alonso-Alvarez, Juan J. Negro. Relationships between Hair Melanization, Glutathione Levels, and Senescence in Wild Boars. Physiological and Biochemical Zoology, 2012; 85 (4): 332 DOI: 10.1086/666606

Cite This Page:

University of Chicago Press Journals. "Red hair is a sign of oxidative stress in wild boars, but gray is A-OK." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 19 July 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/07/120719153303.htm>.
University of Chicago Press Journals. (2012, July 19). Red hair is a sign of oxidative stress in wild boars, but gray is A-OK. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 25, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/07/120719153303.htm
University of Chicago Press Journals. "Red hair is a sign of oxidative stress in wild boars, but gray is A-OK." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/07/120719153303.htm (accessed July 25, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Friday, July 25, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Boy Attacked by Shark in Florida

Boy Attacked by Shark in Florida

Reuters - US Online Video (July 24, 2014) — An 8-year-old boy is bitten in the leg by a shark while vacationing at a Florida beach. Linda So reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Goma Cheese Brings Whiff of New Hope to DRC

Goma Cheese Brings Whiff of New Hope to DRC

Reuters - Business Video Online (July 24, 2014) — The eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo, mainly known for conflict and instability, is an unlikely place for the production of fine cheese. But a farm in the village of Masisi, in North Kivu is slowly transforming perceptions of the area. Known simply as Goma cheese, the Congolese version of Dutch gouda has gained popularity through out the region. Ciara Sutton reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Dogs Appear To Become Jealous Of Owners' Attention

Dogs Appear To Become Jealous Of Owners' Attention

Newsy (July 23, 2014) — A U.C. San Diego researcher says jealousy isn't just a human trait, and dogs aren't the best at sharing the attention of humans with other dogs. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Professor Creates Site Revealing Where People's Cats Live

Professor Creates Site Revealing Where People's Cats Live

Newsy (July 23, 2014) — ​It's called I Know Where Your Cat Lives, and you can keep hitting the "Random Cat" button to find more real cats all over the world. 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