Differential accumulation and pigmenting ability of dietary carotenoids in colorful finches

Physiological and Biochemical Zoology : PBZ
Kevin J McGrawR S Parker


Many animals develop bright red, orange, or yellow carotenoid pigmentation that they use to attract mates. Colorful carotenoid pigments are acquired from the diet and are either directly incorporated as integumentary colorants or metabolized into other forms before deposition. Because animals often obtain several different carotenoids from plant and animal food sources, it is possible that these pigments are accumulated at different levels in the body and may play unique roles in shaping the ultimate color expression of individuals. We studied patterns of carotenoid accumulation and integumentary pigmentation in two colorful finch species--the American goldfinch (Carduelis tristis) and the zebra finch (Taeniopygia guttata). Both species acquire two main hydroxycarotenoids, lutein and zeaxanthin, from their seed diet but transform these into a series of metabolites that are used as colorful pigments in the plumage (goldfinches only) and beak (both species). We conducted a series of carotenoid-supplementation experiments to investigate the relative extent to which lutein and zeaxanthin are accumulated in blood and increase carotenoid coloration in feathers and bare parts. First, we supplemented the diets of both species with eith...Continue Reading


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