Black and white - does melanin change the bulk carbon and nitrogen isotope values of feathers?

Michalik, A., McGill, R.A.R., Furness, R.W., Eggers, T., van Noordwijk, H.J. and Quillfeldt, P. (2010) Black and white - does melanin change the bulk carbon and nitrogen isotope values of feathers? Rapid Communications in Mass Spectrometry, 24(7), pp. 875-878. (doi:10.1002/rcm.4462)

Michalik, A., McGill, R.A.R., Furness, R.W., Eggers, T., van Noordwijk, H.J. and Quillfeldt, P. (2010) Black and white - does melanin change the bulk carbon and nitrogen isotope values of feathers? Rapid Communications in Mass Spectrometry, 24(7), pp. 875-878. (doi:10.1002/rcm.4462)

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Abstract

Bird feathers are employed in a wide range of carbon and nitrogen isotope studies relating to diet and migration. Feathers are chemically inert with respect to carbon and nitrogen, after synthesis. It has always been assumed that feathers show isotope values characteristic of keratin, a fibrous structural protein from which they are formed. Little attention has been paid to other components of feathers such as melanin or carotenoids. Melanin is synthesized from tyrosine, which is depleted in both 13C and 15N. We compared isotope values of coeval black and white feathers in four different species. Black feather parts were in all cases significantly depleted in 13C relative to white feather parts but in most species no clear trend was discernable for 15N. We suggest that additional evaluation may be required to characterize the carbon and nitrogen isotope contribution of feather pigments like carotenoids. Care should be taken in future stable isotope studies when comparing differently coloured feathers.

Item Type:Articles
Status:Published
Refereed:Yes
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Furness, Professor Robert and McGill, Dr Rona
Authors: Michalik, A., McGill, R.A.R., Furness, R.W., Eggers, T., van Noordwijk, H.J., and Quillfeldt, P.
Subjects:Q Science > QD Chemistry
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > Institute of Biodiversity Animal Health and Comparative Medicine
College of Science and Engineering > Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre
Journal Name:Rapid Communications in Mass Spectrometry
ISSN:0951-4198
ISSN (Online):1097-0231
Published Online:02 March 2010

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