Carotenoids from the crimson and maroon plumages of Old World orioles (Oriolidae).

TitleCarotenoids from the crimson and maroon plumages of Old World orioles (Oriolidae).
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2013
AuthorsLaFountain AM, Frank HA, Prum RO
JournalArchives of Biochemistry and Biophysics
Date Published2013 Nov 15
KeywordsAnimals, Asia, Southeastern, Canaries, Carotenoids, Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid, Feathers, Female, Male, Mass Spectrometry, Passeriformes, Songbirds, Tandem Mass Spectrometry, Xanthophylls

Recent analyses of the orange, red, and purple plumages of cotingas (Cotingidae) and broadbills (Eurylaimidae) revealed the presence of novel carotenoid molecules, suggesting that the diversity of pigments and the metabolic transformations they undergo are not yet fully understood. Two Old World orioles, the Black-and-Crimson Oriole Oriolus cruentus, and the Maroon Oriole Oriolus traillii, exhibit plumage colors that are similar to those of some cotingas and broadbills. To determine if these oriole plumage colors are produced by the same carotenoids or with other molecules, we used high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC), mass spectrometry, and chemical analyses. The data show that the bright red feathers of O. cruentus contain a suite of keto-carotenoids commonly found in avian plumages, including canthaxanthin, adonirubin, astaxanthin, papilioerythrinone, and α-doradexanthin. The maroon feathers of O. traillii were found to contain canthaxanthin, α-doradexanthin, and one novel carotenoid, 3’,4-dihydroxy-ε,ε-carotene-3-one, which we have termed “4-hydroxy-canary xanthophyll A.” In this paper we propose the metabolic pathways by which these pigments are formed. This work advances our understanding of the evolution of carotenoid metabolism in birds and the mechanisms by which birds achieve their vivid plumage colorations.

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Alternate JournalArch. Biochem. Biophys.
PubMed ID23851380