skip to main content


Title: Captivity affects mitochondrial aerobic respiration and carotenoid metabolism in the house finch ( Haemorhous mexicanus )

In many species of animals, red carotenoid-based coloration is produced by metabolizing yellow dietary pigments, and this red ornamentation can be an honest signal of individual quality. However, the physiological basis for associations between organism function and the metabolism of red ornamental carotenoids from yellow dietary carotenoids remains uncertain. A recent hypothesis posits that carotenoid metabolism depends on mitochondrial performance, with diminished red coloration resulting from altered mitochondrial aerobic respiration. To test for an association between mitochondrial respiration and red carotenoids, we held wild-caught, molting male house finches in either small bird cages or large flight cages to create environmental challenges during the period when red ornamental coloration is produced. We predicted that small cages would present a less favorable environment than large flight cages and that captivity itself would decrease both mitochondrial performance and the abundance of red carotenoids compared to free-living birds. We found that captive-held birds circulated fewer red carotenoids, showed increased mitochondrial respiratory rates, and had lower complex II respiratory control ratios—a metric associated with mitochondrial efficiency—compared to free-living birds, though we did not detect a difference in the effects of small cages versus large cages. Among captive individuals, the birds that circulated the highest concentrations of red carotenoids had the highest mitochondrial respiratory control ratio for complex II substrate. These data support the hypothesis that the metabolism of red carotenoid pigments is linked to mitochondrial aerobic respiration in the house finch, but the mechanisms for this association remain to be established.

 
more » « less
Award ID(s):
2037741 1754152 2037739 2037735
NSF-PAR ID:
10501304
Author(s) / Creator(s):
; ; ; ; ; ; ;
Publisher / Repository:
The Company of Biologists
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Journal of Experimental Biology
ISSN:
0022-0949
Format(s):
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Synopsis For decades, scientists have noted connections between individual condition and carotenoid-based coloration in terrestrial and aquatic animals. Organisms that produce more vibrant carotenoid-based coloration tend to have better physiological performance and behavioral displays compared with less colorful members of the same species. Traditional explanations for this association between ornamental coloration and performance invoked the need for color displays to be costly, but evidence for such hypothesized costs is equivocal. An alternative explanation for the condition-dependence of carotenoid-based coloration, the Shared-Pathway Hypothesis (SPH), was developed in response. This hypothesis proposes that red ketocarotenoid-based coloration is tied to core cellular processes involving a shared pathway with mitochondrial energy metabolism, making the concentration of carotenoids an index of mitochondrial function. Since the presentation of this hypothesis, empirical tests of the mechanisms proposed therein have been conducted in several species. In this manuscript, we review the SPH and the growing number of studies that have investigated a connection between carotenoid-based coloration and mitochondrial function. We also discuss future strategies for assessing the SPH to more effectively disentangle evidence that may simultaneously support evidence of carotenoid-resource tradeoffs. 
    more » « less
  2. ABSTRACT

    Even as numerous studies have documented that the red and yellow coloration resulting from the deposition of carotenoids serves as an honest signal of condition, the evolution of condition dependency is contentious. The resource trade‐off hypothesis proposes that condition‐dependent honest signalling relies on a trade‐off of resources between ornamental display and body maintenance. By this model, condition dependency can evolve through selection for a re‐allocation of resources to promote ornament expression. By contrast, the index hypothesis proposes that selection focuses mate choice on carotenoid coloration that is inherently condition dependent because production of such coloration is inexorably tied to vital cellular processes. These hypotheses for the origins of condition dependency make strongly contrasting and testable predictions about ornamental traits. To assess these two models, we review the mechanisms of production of carotenoids, patterns of condition dependency involving different classes of carotenoids, and patterns of behavioural responses to carotenoid coloration. We review evidence that traits can be condition dependent without the influence of sexual selection and that novel traits can show condition‐dependent expression as soon as they appear in a population, without the possibility of sexual selection. We conclude by highlighting new opportunities for studying condition‐dependent signalling made possible by genetic manipulation and expression of ornamental traits in synthetic biological systems.

     
    more » « less
  3. Parsch, John (Ed.)
    Abstract Carotenoid pigments underlie most of the red, orange, and yellow visual signals used in mate choice in vertebrates. However, many of the underlying processes surrounding the production of carotenoid-based traits remain unclear due to the complex nature of carotenoid uptake, metabolism, and deposition across tissues. Here, we leverage the ability to experimentally induce the production of a carotenoid-based red plumage patch in the red-backed fairywren (Malurus melanocephalus), a songbird in which red plumage is an important male sexual signal. We experimentally elevated testosterone in unornamented males lacking red plumage to induce the production of ornamentation and compared gene expression in both the liver and feather follicles between unornamented control males, testosterone-implanted males, and naturally ornamented males. We show that testosterone upregulates the expression of CYP2J19, a gene known to be involved in ketocarotenoid metabolism, and a putative carotenoid processing gene (ELOVL6) in the liver, and also regulates the expression of putative carotenoid transporter genes in red feather follicles on the back, including ABCG1. In black feathers, carotenoid-related genes are downregulated and melanin genes upregulated, but we find that carotenoids are still present in the feathers. This may be due to the activity of the carotenoid-cleaving enzyme BCO2 in black feathers. Our study provides a first working model of a pathway for carotenoid-based trait production in free-living birds, implicates testosterone as a key regulator of carotenoid-associated gene expression, and suggests hormones may coordinate the many processes that underlie the production of these traits across multiple tissues. 
    more » « less
  4. Dam, Hans G. (Ed.)
    The marine copepod, Tigriopus californicus , produces the red carotenoid pigment astaxanthin from yellow dietary precursors. This ‘bioconversion’ of yellow carotenoids to red is hypothesized to be linked to individual condition, possibly through shared metabolic pathways with mitochondrial oxidative phosphorylation. Experimental inter-population crosses of lab-reared T . californicus typically produces low-fitness hybrids is due in large part to the disruption of coadapted sets nuclear and mitochondrial genes within the parental populations. These hybrid incompatibilities can increase variability in life history traits and energy production among hybrid lines. Here, we tested if production of astaxanthin was compromised in hybrid copepods and if it was linked to mitochondrial metabolism and offspring development. We observed no clear mitonuclear dysfunction in hybrids fed a limited, carotenoid-deficient diet of nutritional yeast. However, when yellow carotenoids were restored to their diet, hybrid lines produced less astaxanthin than parental lines. We observed that lines fed a yeast diet produced less ATP and had slower offspring development compared to lines fed a more complete diet of algae, suggesting the yeast-only diet may have obscured effects of mitonuclear dysfunction. Astaxanthin production was not significantly associated with development among lines fed a yeast diet but was negatively related to development in early generation hybrids fed an algal diet. In lines fed yeast, astaxanthin was negatively related to ATP synthesis, but in lines fed algae, the relationship was reversed. Although the effects of the yeast diet may have obscured evidence of hybrid dysfunction, these results suggest that astaxanthin bioconversion may still be related to mitochondrial performance and reproductive success. 
    more » « less
  5. Abstract

    Carotenoid pigments are the basis for much red, orange, and yellow coloration in nature and central to visual signaling. However, as pigment concentration increases, carotenoid signals not only darken and become more saturated but they also redshift; for example, orange pigments can look red at higher concentration. This occurs because light experiences exponential attenuation, and carotenoid‐based signals have spectrally asymmetric reflectance in the visible range. Adding pigment disproportionately affects the high‐absorbance regions of the reflectance spectra, which redshifts the perceived hue. This carotenoid redshift is substantial and perceivable by animal observers. In addition, beyond pigment concentration, anything that increases the path length of light through pigment causes this redshift (including optical nano‐ and microstructures). For example, maleRamphocelustanagers appear redder than females, despite the same population and concentration of carotenoids, due to microstructures that enhance light–pigment interaction. This mechanism of carotenoid redshift has sensory and evolutionary consequences for honest signaling in that structures that redshift carotenoid ornaments may decrease signal honesty. More generally, nearly all colorful signals vary in hue, saturation, and brightness as light–pigment interactions change, due to spectrally asymmetrical reflectance within the visible range of the relevant species. Therefore, the three attributes of color need to be considered together in studies of honest visual signaling.

     
    more » « less